ALLENTOWN, Pa. – The Ursinus College football team saw its chance to clinch a spot in the NCAA tournament dashed by Muhlenberg as the Mules (7-2, 7-1 Centennial) held off Ursinus (7-2, 6-2 Centennial) 27-20 at Scotty Wood Stadium Saturday afternoon.
Mules clinched a share of the Centennial title, something Ursinus can do next week if the Bears defeat Dickinson and Muhlenberg trips up against surging Moravian. All the Bears can then hope for is one of the at-large bids to the NCAA tournament if the Bears finish 8-2.
Muhlenberg, who won the championship in 2007 and 2008, turned up the defensive pressure on the Bears as senior quarterback Justin Decristofaro (Jenkintown, Pa./Father Judge) was sacked seven times on the afternoon for 60 yards in losses. The Bears were held to just 33 yards rushing and 243 yards total offense.
Still, the Bears almost pulled off a comeback win but saw its final drive come up one yard short on fourth-and-4 from the Mules 49 yard line with just 1:54 left.
For Ursinus, Decristofaro finished 19-for-34 for 210 yards and a touchdown pass. Sophomore running back Teddy Conrad (Doylestown, Pa./Central Bucks West), returning to the lineup from a broken hand, had 45 yards on 13 carries for the Bears.
Nine different receivers caught passes for Ursinus, led by junior wide receiver Nick Giarratano (Wapwallopen, Pa./Crestwood) who caught five passes for 54 yards and a score, moving him to 17 career touchdown passes and just two away from tying the school record.
Defensively, senior linebacker Joe Galie (Phoenixville, Pa./Phoenixville) had nine tackles.
For Muhlenberg, sophomore quarterback Dan Deighan was 9-for-19 for 147 yards and two scores, also rushing for 75 yards and two scores. Sophomore running back Terrence Dandridge rushed for 94 yards on 25 carries.
Defensively, the Mules got a strong performance from junior defensive end Kenneth Cobb, who had 4.5 sacks for 46 yards in losses.
Muhlenberg scored the lone touchdown of the first quarter, as Deighan completed a 56-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Isaiah Vaughn for a 7-0 lead with just 3:48 left in the first. Ursinus countered with a 12 play, 60 yard drive which saw Decristofaro rush from one yard out on fourth-and-goal from the 1 for a 7-all tie with 13:07 left. Muhlenberg mounted a scoring drive on its second offensive possession of the quarter, but, senior kicker Michael Katz missed a 36 yard field goal with 6:18 left.
The Mules would go up 14-7 on their next offensive possession as Deighan rushed left for a 17-yard score with 2:02 left. After Muhlenberg intercepted Ursinus on the Mules 15-yard line, Muhlenberg tried to run out the clock. However, the Mules were forced to punt with just 5.3 seconds left. Junior punter Kevin Ryan dropped the snap, giving Ursinus a chance at a field goal from the nine yard line with just two seconds left.
What happened next was a wild sequence of events that went from bad to good for Ursinus. Freshman kicker Michael Bennett (Maple Glen, Pa./La Salle College HS) lined up for a 26 yard field goal which was blocked, but, Bennett alertly picked up the ball and rushed left side for a 17-yard missed field goal return with no time left. The snap on the ensuing PAT was high, putting Ursinus down 14-13 at intermission.
In the third quarter, Muhlenberg took a 27-13 lead as Deighan rushed for a three-yard score with 5:56 left, then completed a 20-yard pass to senior wide receiver Jon Liberty with 2:56 left.
The Bears final score came with 11:11 as Giarratano caught a 9-yard pass in the center of the end zone on fourth down from Decristofaro for a 27-20 deficit. The Bears did hold Muhlenberg on their next drive, but, a quick kick by Deighan from the Bears 35 landed just outside the goal line, pinning Ursinus at the 1.
Muhlenberg did something no team had done against Ursinus this year, post a successful percentage on third down by going 8 for 17. The Mules also held the ball for 31:04.
Ursinus hosts Dickinson on Senior Day at Patterson Field on Saturday.