BETHLEHEM, Pa. --- Freshman running back Chris Negron ran for a career-high 218 yards with two touchdowns and senior quarterback Robbie Moyer threw for four more touchdowns to lead the Moravian College football team to a 52-42 Centennial Conference win over Franklin & Marshall College at Rocco Calvo Field Saturday afternoon.
Moravian put up 50 points on the scoreboard for the first time since scoring 52 at Susquehanna University on October 28, 2000, and the Greyhounds' 483 yards of total offense were the most for the team since a 500-yard game at McDaniel College on September 13, 2008.
"It was great to get our first win," stated head coach Jeff Pukzysn after the victory. "These guys have played phenomenal all year, and to see all of the hard work finally pay off was great. They were relentless all day, and playing with the lead for the first time gave them a tremendous amount of confidence, and we just built on it from there.
"I think it really helped us to play with the lead," Pukszyn continued. "Our defense came out and played with their ears pinned back and really got after it. The offense fed off of the defense getting that first turnover, and it snowballed successfully for us after that. I think that was a big piece of the puzzle to get on the board first and our offense seeing they could move the ball effectively."
Negron carried the ball 26 times for his 218 yards with scoring runs of six yards and four yards. Negron is the first Moravian running back to hit the 200-yard mark in a game since Marc Panepinto ran for 213 yards versus Lebanon Valley College on November 5, 2005, and Negron finished the game with 263 all-purpose yards after returning three kickoffs for 45 yards. Negron's 218 yards are the sixth best game in school history, and his all-purpose total is also the sixth highest game total in the Moravian record books.
"Overall, Chris had a phenomenal game, and I think he was really feeling it out there this afternoon," Pukszyn said. "He had some great cuts, and his vision was outstanding. He had the hot hand and we kept feeding him. He works at that all week in practice, and it is starting to show up on gameday. He's only a freshman and is getting better every week. Chris is showing us what we saw him do in high school and why we wanted him here with us."
Moyer completed 12-of-20 passes for 124 yards with a career high four touchdowns against one interception, and Moyer also ran for 134 yards on a team-high 28 carries despite heading to the sideline briefly in the third quarter after a hit before Negron's second touchdown. Moyer's four touchdown pass game is the first for the Greyhounds since Marc Braxmeier tossed four touchdowns at Johns Hopkins University on September 22, 2007.
"Robbie managed the game overall real well today," Pukszyn explained. "He battle back from that early interception and kept the F&M defense on their toes."
The Greyhounds, playing at home for just the third time in seven games this season, earned their first win of the season while jumping out to an early lead for the first time this fall. Moravian also received the opening kickoff for the first time this season but turned the ball over on downs in the end zone after deciding not to attempt a field goal into a strong wind.
Moravian needed seven plays to get the ball back when sophomore linebacker Brendan Downey intercepted an E.J. Schneider pass at the Moravian 41-yard line and returned it 14 yards. For the second straight possession, the Greyhounds moved down the field, and Moyer capped of the drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Jimmy McCarthy. Sophomore kicker David Fiumara made the first of his school-record tying seven extra-points in the game to give the Greyhounds a 7-0 lead with 7:50 left in the first quarter, Moravian's first lead of the season.
Kicking off into the strong wind, Fiumara's kickoff was shot and landed at the F&M 30-yard line. With the Diplomats unsure of where the ball was, Moravian freshman defensive back Noah Miller covered the ball for the Greyhounds. Eight plays later, Fiumara connected on a 23-yard field goal into the wind for a 10-0 lead with 5:10 left in the opening quarter.
"We practiced in the wind during the week so we were ready for it today, and it played into our advantage with that kickoff," Pukszyn said.
Moravian forced the Diplomats to punt for the first time in the game, and F&M downed the ball at the one-yard line. On the third play, Moyer's swing pass was intercepted by Diplomats' defensive back Aaron Fant, who returned the ball 12 yards for a touchdown with just 1:39 to play in the first quarter.
The Greyhounds were unable to move the ball but left the clock run out to end the first quarter before punting. The move paid off as Fiumara drilled a career long and school record 67 yard punt that ended up rolling into the end zone for a touchback. Moravian's defense held to eventually force a punt but the Greyhounds had to punt again with Fiumara connecting on a 59-yard punt this time. Fiumara punted four times in the game for an average of 53.0 yards and two inside the 20-yard line.
On the second play of the drive, Moravian junior linebacker Kevin Bracken stripped F&M's Scott LaVala of the ball at the Moravian 46-yard line with Bracken covering the loose ball. Bracken finished the contest with six tackles.
"Kevin is one of our vocal leaders, and he gets he gets the guys really revved up to play," Pukszyn stated. "He puts himself in the right situations out there, and he is seeing everything. He's a fun guy to be around, and the guys really enjoy playing with him."
Moravian would need eight plays to cover the 54 yards to the end zone as Negron scored from six yards out for the 17-7 lead with 6:51 until the intermission.
The final three minutes of the second half saw the teams combine for 28 points with the Greyhounds scoring 21 of them. After Miller intercepted a Schneider pass at the F&M 25-yard line, Moravian needed one play, a 25-yard pass from Moyer to freshman wide receiver Liam Nolan to score. The pass was Nolan's first career reception and gave the Greyhounds a 24-7 lead with 2:43 until halftime.
"Liam has worked very hard in practice to get himself into a position to get onto the field," Pukszyn said. "The ball got thrown his way, and he looked as confident as anyone on the field making that touchdown catch."
The Greyhounds extended their lead 45 seconds later when Schneider's option pick to running back Brendan Daly was wide and Moravian sophomore defensive back Anthony Orlando scooped up the loose ball and sprinted 45 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown and a 31-7 lead. Orlando had a team-high 12 tackles, and his fumble return for a touchdown was the first for the Greyhounds since Erik Brinkerhoff had a 72-yard return versus McDaniel on September 8, 2007 in Moravian's first game as a member of the Centennial Conference.
"We moved Anthony a little closer to the line of scrimmage this week to a nickel linebacker position, and he looked really comfortable there," Pukszyn said. "He was in a great spot on that fumble, and that is something we work on in practice, picking up a fumble and running. He was in the right spot at the right time, and it really ignited us on defense."
A long kickoff return and a pass by Schneider to the one-yard line would set up the Diplomats first offensive touchdown of the game with 1:31 before the half as F&M cut Moravian's lead to 31-14.
The Greyhounds, with the wind at their backs, had plenty of time left on the clock to score again before the intermission. Negron moved the Greyhounds near midfield with a 16-yard run on the first play of the drive before Moyer connected on a 10-yard pass to freshman wide receiver Jalen Snyder-Scipio. Facing a third-and-seven, Moyer found senior tight end Chase Zimnik wide open for a 30-yard completion to the five-yard line. Two plays later, Moyer hit Snyder-Scipio with a five-yard touchdown strike with 12 seconds left in the first half and send Moravian to the locker room with a 38-14 lead. Snyder-Scipio had a team high six receptions for 40 yards.
On the opening possession of the second half, senior defensive back Rees Judge intercepted a Schneider pass at the Moravian three yard line. Judge had 10 solo tackles in the game with one for loss and a total of three passes defended.
After a Moyer run on first down, Negron ran three straight times and picked up 32 yards to get the Greyhounds to the 36-yard line. On the next play, Negron burst through the middle and was off to the races before being caught by &M's Jordan Blair, who knocked the ball loose after a 48-yard gain and Tre Henderson covered the ball for the Diplomats.
F&M would need nine plays to get back on the scoreboard and cut the Greyhounds lead to 38-21.
However, Moravian had an answer again. Moyer ran for five yards on the first play of the ensuing Greyhounds' possession before a three-yard run by Negron on third-and-two, Negron ran off the left side for 55 yards to the F&M four-yard line before being knocked out of bounds. With Moyer being hurt on the play, Negron would finish of the drive on the next play with a four-yard scoring run after taking a handoff from freshman quarterback Mike Hayes, who was making his first appearance of the season. The score pushed the Greyhounds back in front by 24 points, 45-21, with 6:17 left in the third quarter.
The Diplomats scored on their next possession with a 13-play drive that cut Moravian's lead to 45-28 with 39 seconds to go in the third quarter.
Moravian would start its next drive at its own 26-yard line with Moyer running for 17 yards on the final play of the third stanza. Now heading back into the wind, the Greyhounds ran the first 15 plays of the fourth quarter with Moyer finding McCarthy with a 12-yard touchdown pass on a third-and-nine play to put the Greyhounds over 50 points. The score put Moravian ahead 52-28 with just 7:27 remaining in the game, and McCarthy had two catches for 25 yards, both for touchdowns, and his one kickoff return to 18 yards tied the school record he set last season with his 29th return of the year.
F&M would score touchdowns on its final two possessions, sandwiched around a Moravian punt. The Diplomats did have 511 yards of offense on 86 plays as Schneider completed 31-of-49 passes for 369 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions. Paul McGann had 10 catches for 164 yards and a score while Jordan Zackery added nine receptions for 129 yards. Schneider also led F&M on the ground with 50 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.
Miller finished the game with seven tackles to go with his interception for the Greyhounds while Bracken, Downey, junior defensive back Ricky Sinnig and freshman defensive lineman John Snyder each made six stops. Downey and Snyder each had two passes defended while Bracken added a pass break-up.
"John Snyder did a phenomenal job, and might be the best freshman defensive lineman in the conference," Pukszyn said. "He just puts his hat on and goes to work. With some of those ball disruptions he had at the line today fired up the rest of the defensive line and got them going too."
Brendan Wengerter led the Diplomats' defense with 14 tackles while Ryan Young added 13 stops.
Moravian is scheduled to return to action on Saturday, November 2 with the second game of the three-game homestand as Gettysburg College comes to Rocco Calvo Field for a 1:00 p.m. Centennial Conference game.