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Explosive Offense Not Enough For Juniata Football

(Posted November 12, 2005)

Jay Leonard threw for a career-best 456 yards and three touchdowns, the third-highest single-game total in school history, in the 2005 season finale.

EXPLOSIVE OFFENSIVE EFFORT NOT ENOUGH FOR JUNIATA FOOTBALL
FDU-Florham 51, Juniata 41

Madison, N.J. ? In the highest-scoring football game in the history of FDU-Florham football, an explosive offensive effort for the Juniata College football team was not quite enough as the FDU-Florham Devils outlasted visiting Juniata 51-41 in Middle Atlantic Conference football action at Robert T. Shields. FDU-Florham finishes the season 4-6 overall and 4-5 in the MAC, while Juniata finishes the season 0-10 and 0-9 in the MAC.

It was a big offensive day for several of Juniata?s starters, and the offense in general. Freshman quarterback Jay Leonard (Big Spring/Newville) established a new career high with 456 yards passing and three touchdowns. His 456 yards marked the third-highest single-season passing game in school history. His primary target was sophomore David Nicklaus (Lampeter Strasburg/Lancaster) who caught nine passes for a career-high 284 yards and a pair of scores. His yardage total was the third-highes single-game receiving yards total in school history. Then on the ground, junior running back Duane J. Ehredt Jr. (Bellwood-Antis/Tyrone) gained 176 yards and scored twice, which gave him 1,204 rushing yards on the season, the second-highest single-season total in the history of the football program. Juniata finished the game with 664 yards of total offense, the second-most yards the Blue and Gold have gained in a contest in school history.

But while the Eagles were wracking up points and yards, FDU-Florham quarterback Dan Huff (Sayreville, N.J.) was also enjoying a record-setting day. The junior threw for a career-high 354 yards on 17-for-22 passing. He also ran for a team-leading 108 yards. He accounted for every Devils touchdown of the day, throwing for four TDs and running in for three touchdowns of distances of seven, 48, and six yards.

FDU-Florham got on the scoreboard first, taking the opening kickoff and oving inside Juniata?s 30-yard line. The Devils capped the drive with a 39-yard field goal from senior kicker/punter Michael Rabasca (Clifton, NJ) to take an early 3-0 lead.

The Devils quickly added to the lead on its next possession. Huff scrambled out of the pocket and found senior wide receiver Dan Copp (Palisades Park, NJ) for a 50-yard completion and the first touchdown of the game. Though a personal foul penalty moved the extra point back, Rabasca converted the point to give the home team a 10-0 lead midway through the first quarter.

Juniata broke into the scoring column on its next drive. Leonard found Kiel G. Knisely (Claysburg-Kimmel/Queen) in the flat, Knisely broke a pair of tackles and scampered to the end zone to complete the 45-yard scoring play. Heinlein?s point cut the lead to 10-7 FDU with 2:50 remaining in the first quarter.

It was Juniata?s defense making the next big play, as Josh Gulley (Du Bois/Luthersburg) forced an FDU-Florham fumble, which the Eagles recovered. After the turnover the Eagles hit a 45-yard completion to Nicklaus then had Ehredt Jr., rush in from four yards out to give Juniata the lead. The point put the visitors on top 14-10 with just over a minute remaining in the quarter.

After the teams traded turnovers, FDU moved back in front on a seven-play, 67-yard scoring drive. Huff carried the ball in from seven yards out and with a successful conversion the home team took a 17-14 lead with just over eight minutes remaining in the half.

The Eagles countered FDU?s score with a 12-play 76-yard scoring drive that featured a large dose of Ehredt Jr. The junior back capped the drive with a three-yard scoring run, and the point put Juniata back in front 21-17 with 3:35 left on the second quarter clock.

The first-half scoring continued on the ensuing possession as FDU-Florham moved back in front on an 18-yard scoring pass from Huff to junior wide receiver Mike Smeja (Patchogue, NY) and the extra point from Rabasca. The scoring drive went for 79 yards in five plays, and left the home team leading 24-21 with 1:13 left in the half, and would take that lead into the half.

Juniata tied the score on its first drive of the second stanza. Dan Heinlein drilled a 27 yard field goal after a nine-play Juniata drive to tie the score at 24 just four minutes into the half.

The Eagles continued to find offensive success on its second drive of the half as Leonard found a streaking Nicklaus down the right sideline for a 48-yard scoring strike. The point put Juniata in front 31-24.

FDU-Florham responded with a 57-yard scoring drive. Huff found Copp behind the Juniata defense for a 25-yard scoring completion to cut into the Juniata lead. But FDU would miss the point after, leaving Juniata in front 31-30.

The Eagles added to the lead on its next driving, moving into FDU-Florham territory and then got a 33-yard field goal from Heinlein on the first play of the fourth quarter to take a 34-30 lead.

The offenses continued to rule the day as FDU-Florham marched down the field and took the lead back on its next possession. Huff broke free on a bootleg for a 48-yard touchdown run and the point gave the home team a 37-34 lead with 13:30 remaining in the game.

The next big play came from Juniata?s offense. Facing a third-and-10 on its own 21, Leonard found Nicklaus for his second touchdown catch of the game, this time for a career-long 79 yards. The point gave the Eagles a 41-37 still more than 12 minutes left in the fourth quarter.

The home team answered one more time, with Huff using his legs to engineer a seven-play, 60-yard scoring drive. The junior quarterback carried the ball several times on the drive, including a six-yard scoring run to take back the lead. The Rabasca?s kick gave the Devils a 44-41 lead with 8:30 left in the game.

The first big mistake of the final quarter came on Juniata?s next drive. After several runs from Ehredt Jr. moved the ball into FDU territory, the Eagles fumbled the center exchange, and the Devils recovered on their one 21 yard line with just over five minutes remaining in the game.

The home team took advantage as on a third down play Huff found Smeja behind the Juniata defense for a 73-yard scoring pass. The successful point gave the home team a 51-41 lead with 3:57 left in the game.

Juniata drove into Devils? territory on its next possession looking to cut into the lead. Leonard completed several more passes but had his final throw intercepted by sophomore defensive back John Sacco (Chatham, NJ) at the eight yard line.

Defensively for Juniata senior Peter Thomas (Mechanicsburg/Mechanicsburg) made 10 stops in his final game. Matt Schmidt (South Western/Hanover) had nine tackles.

On the day, Copp had five catches for two touchdowns and 115 yards, a 50-yarder and a 25-yarder. Smeja had three catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns, an 18-yarder and a 73-yarder. Sophomore running back Daniel Harrison (Trenton, NJ) ran for 102 yards on 18 carries.

Defensively for FDY, senior defensive back Billy D. Williams (Neptune, NJ) made 10 tackles (nine solo), forced a fumble, and broke up a pass. Sophomore defensive back Derek Gregory (Stratford, NJ) made nine stops and broke up a pass.

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