MUHLENBERG FOOTBALL TEAM CLINCHES TITLE, NCAA BERTH
Allentown, Pa. – Sophomore Dan Deighan ran for two touchdowns and threw for two more against the top defense in the Centennial Conference, leading the Muhlenberg football team to a 27-20 home win against Ursinus in a showdown between the two teams that came in tied for first.
With the win, the Mules (7-2, 7-1) clinched a share of their ninth CC title, tying Dickinson for the most in the league's 28-year history. And combined with Johns Hopkins' 24-9 win at Franklin & Marshall, it gave Muhlenberg the CC's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Even if the Mules lose their regular-season finale at Moravian next week, the only teams that could tie them for first place are teams (Ursinus and Johns Hopkins) that they have beaten.
The game between the defense that ranked 1-2 in the CC in six different categories was surprisingly high scoring.
Muhlenberg drew first blood on a 56-yard pass from Deighan to Isaiah Vaughn with 3:48 left in the first quarter. The Bears (7-2, 6-2), ranked seventh in the South Region by the NCAA, tied the score when Justin Decristofaro sneaked in from a yard out on fourth down early in the second quarter.
The Mules took advantage of good field position to go ahead for good late in the half, needing only four plays to move 37 yards for a touchdown, with Deighan running it in from 17 yards out with 2:02 showing on the clock.
The first half ended with a bizarre sequence of events. Muhlenberg's Kevin Ryan lined up to punt from his own 20 with 5.3 seconds left in the half, but he bobbled the snap and was tackled by Scott Gardus at the 9 with 1.8 seconds to play. Michael Bennett's 26-yard field goal try was blocked by Scott Gavin, but the ball came right back to Bennett, who ran 17 yards for a touchdown. The extra point try was bobbled by the holder, however, leaving the Mules ahead 14-13.
Deighan scored from 3 yards out with 5:56 left in the third, then found Jon Liberty on a slant for a 20-yard touchdown to make it 27-13 three minutes later. The latter scoring drive was set up by Chris Hartzell's interception.
Another fourth-down touchdown, this one on a 9-yard pass from Decristofaro to Nick Giarratano, made it a one-touchdown game with 11:11 left. The Mules took almost six minutes off the clock on their next drive, which ended with a bit of trickery. They lined up to go for it on fourth-and-6 from the Bear 34, but instead Deighan took the snap and punted. His kick rolled dead on the 1-yard line.
Ursinus drove to near midfield on the ensuing possession. On fourth-and-4 from the Muhlenberg 49, Giarratano was tackled immediately by Ryan after catching a pass a yard short of the first down. The Mules took over with 1:49 left and ran out the clock.
Deighan finished 9-of-19 for 147 yards and also rushed for a career-high 75 yards on only 11 carries. Terrence Dandridge had his streak of consecutive 100-yard games snapped at six, finishing with 94 yards on 25 carries.
Kenneth Cobb was the defensive star of the game, recording 4½ sacks for losses of 46 yards. Shane O'Connor made a career-high 11 tackles.
Decristofaro was 19-of-34 for 210 yards but was picked off twice. Joe Galie led the Bear defense with nine tackles.