For the second straight season, Gettysburg and Susquehanna engaged in a record-breaking shootout, but it was the Crusaders who came out top this year, rallying for a 56-55 overtime victory at Shirk Field at Musselman Stadium on Saturday.
Gettysburg (2-2, 2-1 CC) led 48-37 with 9:56 left before Susquehanna (3-1, 2-1 CC) rallied with 11 unanswered points to send the game to overtime. The Bullets took a 55-48 lead after junior tailback Ted Delia scored on a 1-yard touchdown run before the Crusaders scored on their first play of overtime, with Rich Palazzi hitting Spenser Ercole with a 25-yard touchdown pass. Susquehanna then elected to go for the two-conversion and the win, and Palazzi connected with tailback Greg Tellish for the game-winning points.
In a game that featured nine lead changes, the two teams tied the Centennial Conference record for combined points scored in a game that they established in last season's 61-50 Gettysburg victory in which the Bullets closed the final 18 minutes on a 34-0 run. This year, the teams combined for 1,123 yards, with the Bullets holding a slim 569-554 advantage.
Delia turned in one of the top rushing performances in school history, piling up 244 yards – fifth-most in school history and the most by any player besides the program's all-time leading rusher Paul Smith '00 – and three touchdowns on 25 carries. He scored one of his touchdowns on an 83-yard run, and he also scored on a punt return touchdown for the second week in a row, this time from 66 yards out. Delia, who has now scored eight touchdowns in his last two games, finished with 310 all-purpose yards and four total touchdowns.
Palazzi threw for 430 yards and two touchdowns on 24-of-37 passing while rushing for two additional TDs. Ercole – who also caught a 32-yard touchdown pass with 2:03 left in regulation to send the game to overtime after a successful two-point conversion – finished with 152 yards and two touchdowns on five receptions while Mike Ritter added six catches for 103 yards. Tellish rushed for 115 yards and three touchdowns.
Junior Kody Smith passed for 183 yards and rushed for a career-high 82 yards and two touchdowns for the Bullets while freshman wing Freddy Caruso caught seven passes for 116 yards. Caruso also tossed a nine-yard halfback option touchdown pass.
It was the Delia and Tellish show early on, as the two combined for five of the first six touchdowns of the game. Delia scored on a 1-yard touchdown run on the game's opening drive, and Smith rambled in from 33 yards out to make it 14-7 midway through the opening quarter. Tellish then scored back-to-back TDs, giving the Crusaders a 20-14 advantage early in the second quarter.
On the first play from scrimmage on the ensuing drive Delia broke off his 83-yard run – the longest by a Bullet since an 85-yarder by Jamel Mutunga '11 against Franklin & Marshall in 2008 – to put Gettysburg up 21-20. Spenser Hotaling kicked a 30-yard field goal before Caruso connected with freshman Alec Pacelli on his TD pass to make it 27-23 in favor of the Bullets after a failed two-point conversion try with 4:54 left in the opening half.
Palazzi scored on a 1-yard run with 2:51 on the clock to give Susquehanna a 30-27 lead that would stand up as the halftime score. The Bullets had an excellent chance to answer before the end of the half, however, but were unable to convert back-to-back short field-goal attempts. Senior Rob Pennella had his 21-yarder blocked with 23 seconds left, but a Susquehanna defender fumbled after he had recovered the loose ball. Senior Tyler Fasanella fell on the second fumble, restoring possession for the Bullets at the Crusader-4.
Gettysburg was unable to take advantage, however, and four plays later Pennella missed a 19-yard field goal.
The Bullets outscored Susquehanna 21-7 to start the second half en route to their 11-point lead. Delia opened the scoring with his punt return, breaking tackles all the way downfield to make it 34-30 with 6:20 left in the third quarter. Palazzi answered with a 1-yard touchdown run before Smith scored again, this time on a 20-yard scramble as Gettysburg reclaimed the lead at 41-37 with 2:28 left in the third quarter.
Senior quarterback Kyle Whitmoyer scored on a 5-yard touchdown run with 9:56 remaining to give the Bullets their 48-37 lead before Hotaling knocked through a 23-yard field goal with 4:53 to go, making it a one-possession game. Susquehanna forced Gettysburg to go three-and-out on the ensuing drive before the Crusaders took over with 3:01 remaining and marched 73 yards on just six plays. Palazzi kept the chains moving on a third-and-10 with a 19-yard completion to Alex Patchin two plays before his 32-yard TD toss to Ercole. He found Patchin again for the game-tying two-point conversion.
After another Gettysburg three-and-out, the Crusaders found themselves at the Gettysburg-38 with less than a minute left after Palazzi hit tight end Matt Knouse for a 32-yard pickup. But junior linebacker Larry DelViscio thwarted the drive with an interception at the Bullet-24. A 12-yard return set the ball at the GC-36 with 49 seconds left, and the Bullets elected to run off the remainder of the clock by twice taking a knee.
Senior safety Joe Delaney paced the Bullet defense with 10 tackles, a forced fumble, an interception, and two pass breakups while DelViscio finished with eight stops. Jalon Scott led all players with 11 tackles for Susquehanna.