HUNTINGDON, Pa.- Trailing 24-7 late in the second quarter, the Juniata football team stared at what could have been its third loss of the season. Instead, the Eagles came back in a big way with a huge second half on their way to a 38-27 victory over Ursinus on Saturday afternoon at Knox Stadium.
The win lifts Juniata to 4-2 overall and 3-2 in the Centennial Conference. The Bears remain winless on the season at 0-6 and 0-5 in the conference.
Matt Lehr (Dover, Pa./York Catholic) had a career game rushing the ball for the Eagles. He had 28 carries for 177 yards and two touchdowns.
Things did not go well for the Eagles from the start as Kirby Breault (Elizabethtown, Pa./Elizabethtown) mishandled the opening kickoff and Ursinus recovered. The Bears drove to the JC two-yard line but were turned away and had a to settle for a Nicholas Ford 19-yard field goal.
Breault atoned for his earlier mistake as on the first play from scrimmage after the kickoff, he caught a 51-yard pass from Hank Coyne (Royersford, Pa./Spring-Ford) to give Juniata possession at the UC 24. A roughing the passer penalty moved the ball to the UC 13 and from there, Lehr ran it in for the touchdown. Kevin Bonalle's (Lebanon, Pa/Cedar Crest) extra point put the Eagles ahead 7-3 with just under 13 minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Ursinus answered right back with a touchdown to lead 10-7. Juniata's next drive ended in a punt and the Bears countered with a 70-yard touchdown pass from Thomas Garlick to Carment Fortino for 70 yards to increase the Bear lead to 17-7 with 5:49 remaining in the opening quarter.
The two teams exchanged punts. Juniata took over with 2:46 left in the first. The Eagles mounted their longest drive of the day, a 14-play 74-yard drive that saw Juniata move to the UC 2 but ended on a David Vidovic (Hohenfels, Germany/Hohenfels) fumble. Ursinus used an eight-play 79-yard drive to a score on a Stacey Gardner touchdown run to increase the UC lead to 24-7 with 6:29 showing on the game clock in the second period.
Juniata would be stopped on fourth down on its ensuing drive The Eagles' defense forced a Urinsus three and out and a punt with 1:46 remaining in the half. Starting at their own 46, Coyne moved JC into UC territory with a 14-yard pass to Breault, a 15-yard run of his own, and finally a 25-yard scoring strike to Breault with less than a minute left in the second. Bonalle's extra point narrowed the Eagle deficit to 10 points, 24-14, where the score stood at halftime.
In the third quarter, both teams punted on their first drives. After the Juniata punt, UC took over over at its own 31. The JC defense rose up as it had a one-yard loss on a pass, forced an incompletion, picked up a sack, and then on 3rd and 22, Joel Reighard (Altoona, Pa./Altoona Area HS) picked off Garlick and flipped the ball to Mitchell Shober (Stevens, Pa./Cocalico) who ran down to the Ursinus 31. On the next play, Coyne connected with Breault for the touchdown and Bonalle's extra point made it 24-21 with 9:52 remaining in the third quarter.
Ursinus drove to the Juniata one but back-to-back Juniata sacks backed it up to the JC 25. Ford nailed a 42-yard field goal and the Bears' lead increased to 27-21 with 5:08 to play in the third.
Juniata was backed up to its own eight-yard line after an illegal block penalty on the kickoff. The Eagles moved up the 36 before Lehr busted off a 42-yard run to the UC 22. A facemask penalty put the ball on the UC 11. On third and goal, Lehr ran it in for the scored and Bonalle's extra point gave Juniata a 28-27 lead with 37 seconds left in the third.
Bonalle booted a 35-yard field goal with just 12 minutes remaining in the fourth to give JC a 31-27 advantage. A three and out by the Bears forced them to punt. With the ball in Ursinus territory, the Eagles moved quickly as Coyne completed passes of 13 yards and finally 29 yards for a touchdown to Jake Notestine (Harrisburg, Pa./Central Dauphin) that increased the JC lead to 38-27 at the 8:35 mark of the fourth.
Another exchange of punts followed and Ursinus had a last chance to get back into the game. The Bears started at their own three and moved all the way down to Juniata's 24. Ursinus was stopped and Ford came on to attempt a 41-yard field goal. The attempt would be blocked by John Michael Maclay (Reedsville, Pa./Mifflin County HS) and recovered by the Eagles as Juniata ran out the clock.
The Eagles amassed 554 yards of total offense. Coyne completed 23-of-36 passes for 348 yards and three touchdowns. Breault caught 13 of those passes for 213 yards and two scores. Notestine hauled in five catches for 65 yards and a score. Brocato grabbed three balls for 44 yards.
The defense held the Bears to 44 yards rushing and less than two yards per rush. Ursinus was just 2-of-15 (13%) on third downs. The Eagles had five total sacks for losses of 38 yards. Jake Diviney (Altoona, Pa./Altoona Area HS) finished with eight tackles and 1.5 sacks for losses of 14 yards. Shober was behind him with five tackles and a 19-yard interception return. Ryan Bologa (Douglassville, Pa./Daniel Boone HS) added five tackles as did Maclay who also had a pass breakup and the blocked field goal.
Juniata heads on the road next week to face Muhlenberg and hopes to avenge last season's double overtime loss to the Mules at Knox Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 1:00 p.m.