GETTYSBURG, Pa. – The Ursinus College football team had little success through the air for more than 57 minutes in its Centennial Conference opener at Gettysburg on Saturday.
When the Bears needed it most, Thomas Garlick had the goods.
The sophomore signal-caller capped a 75-yard, go-ahead drive with a 14-yard touchdown pass to junior Jacob Clifford with 55 seconds remaining and the defense came up with a final stop deep in Ursinus territory to clinch a wild 35-28 victory at Shirk Field. Garlick, who had completed just 10 of his 24 passes until the game-winning march, hit on all five of his attempts for 84 yards to engineer the Bears' first 2-0 start – and win against the Bullets – since 2014.
Sophomore Stacey Gardner had another huge day on the ground and classmate Noah Thomas made a pair of massive defensive plays on Gettysburg's last drive to ensure the Bears (2-0, 1-0) wound up on the top side of a rollercoaster that had seen the Red and Old Gold blow a nine-point fourth-quarter lead.
A week removed from a 197-yard effort in the opener, Gardner picked up 153 yards on 26 carries on Saturday. He got plenty of help from his freshman running mate, Samuel Ragland, who scored a pair of touchdowns to keep Ursinus in command for much of the afternoon. Thomas, seeing his first major action of the season, deflected Bullets backup Kevin Martinez' pass on first down and came up with a tipped ball on 4th down from the Ursinus 24 to seal it.
Thomas wasn't the only Bear to make his mark on the defensive side of the ball. Junior safety Tyler Gordon made a spectacular diving interception in the first quarter, preventing Gettysburg from taking a 14-0 lead, and sophomore Mitchell Bradford also had a pick.
Ursinus fell into a 6-0 hole as the Orange and Blue scored on its opening possession, and the home side was knocking on the door of another touchdown before Gordon laid out to intercept Justin Davidov's deep ball at the Bears' 4.
After a bad snap derailed a Bullets field-goal attempt, Gardner picked up 27 and 16 yards on back-to-back carries, and two plays later Ragland ran it in from nine yards out to give Ursinus a 7-6 lead on the final play of the first quarter.
The teams traded field goals before the Bears embarked on a 10-play, 65-yard scoring drive capped by Gardner's 1-yard plunge into the end zone to seize a 17-9 upper hand heading into the break.
Gettysburg (0-2, 0-1) came right back to start the third, traversing 86 yards on its first drive to pull within 17-15 after the two-point conversion failed. On third down on the Bears' next drive, Garlick hooked up with junior Asa Manley for a 26-yard pitch-and-catch, and Ragland's 28-yard touchdown run made it 24-15 with 3:25 left in the third.
The Bullets answered with a Kevin Benavente 16-yard touchdown carry to slice the margin to 24-22. Freshman Alex DeSpirito stretched the Bears' lead back to five with his second field goal at the 6:13 mark, but Martinez' 33-yard touchdown pass to Ty Abdul-Karim put Gettysburg back in front, 28-27, with 2:56 to go.
That's when Garlick found his rhythm, shaking off a sack on first down to find junior tight end Thomas Cardozo wide open in the zone for a 21-yard gain. Then came a 22-yard toss to Clifford, a 10-yard pass to senior Jonathan Gerhartz, and a 17-yard completion to Manley in the flat to set Ursinus up at the Bullets' 13. After two runs, Garlick hung in the pocket and delivered a strike to Clifford in the back of the end zone for the junior wideout's first career TD reception. The Bears converted the two-point try on an option toss to Manley.
Gettysburg drove down to the Bears' 24, but Thomas' tip ensured the Bullets got no further.
The Bears put up another balanced day on offense, with 254 yards passing and 240 rushing, going 8-for-17 on third down and picking up 6.0 yards per play. Gettysburg finished with 417 yards of offense, with Reggie Jean-Charles racking up 170 on 28 totes.
Garlick was 15-for-29 for 254 yards and the winning touchdown, also adding 40 yards on the ground. Cardozo proved a reliable target, catching four passes for a career-best 86 yards. Manley had 57 yards on three receptions.
Sophomore Jacob McCain paced the Bears with 13 tackles, and Gordon posted his first career interception.
The football team welcomes Juniata to Patterson Field for its Homecoming game on Saturday, September 16.