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Football falls to FDU-Florham in overtime

(Posted September 8, 2007)

MADISON, N.J. -- The saying is that football is a game of inches. In Juniata\'s 20-17 overtime loss Saturday to FDU-Florham, it proved to be a matter of feet. The feet of two place kickers. Red Devil kicker Mike Barnard nailed his 43-yard field goal attempt, just minutes after Juniata\'s Davis Smith was short and wide on a 42-yard effort during the Eagles\' first overtime possession, to lift FDU-Florham to the victory in front of 2,357 fans at a hot and humid Shields Field in Madison, N.J. Trailing 14-0 at the half, the Eagles (0-1, 0-0 Centennial) recovered to eventually take a 17-14 lead with 9:14 remaining in the fourth quarter, when six-foot, two-inch Lance Tippett grabbed a 31-yard touchdown pass from Jay Leonard, hauling in the ball over the head of five-foot, eight-inch Florham defensive back Michael Franchino who was covering him on the play. After the two teams stalled out on successive drives, the Devils got the ball back on their own 25-yard line with 5:49 left on the clock. Florham proceeded to drive 72 yards down the field, fueled by a 22-yard run by Adam LaValley that got the ball to the Juniata nine-yard line. That set up a game-tying 20-yard field goal by Mike Barnard, forcing the overtime shootout. The Eagles received the ball first in overtime, but Leonard\'s three pass attempts were incomplete, forcing Juniata to send Davis Smith out to try the 42-yard field goal attempt. Which fell short. \"The first thing I\'m going to do is tell him I love him, because that\'s a pressure situation -- that young man was in high school not too many months ago,\" said Juniata head coach Darrell Alt. \"That\'s a tough one for a young man.\" FDU-Florham (1-0, 0-0 MAC) grabbed an early lead on the game\'s opening possession, marching 56 yards on six plays and eventually scoring on a 16-yard Bill Winters touchdown run. The Devils widened their lead to 14-0 later in the quarter, when Winters completed a 23-yard TD pass to Ray Kwiatkowski with 5:03 left in the opening quarter. By the end of the first quarter, the Juniata offense, which had gone three-and-out on its first two possessions, started clicking. Leonard began connecting with his taller and quicker receiving corps on short passing plays to the sidelines, a tactic for which the Devils seemed to have no solution. After recording just six first downs in the opening half, the Eagle recorded 13 first downs in the second half. \"We really liked our matchups,\" said Alt. \"We thought that our receiving corps would present some problems with their secondary, and we tried to spread them out and hit the quick timing-touch stuff, and it really seemed to spark the offense a little bit.\" The Eagles didn\'t break the shutout until the 5:11 mark of the third quarter, when freshman running back Kyle McKechnie rambled into the endzone from two yards out, cutting the Florham lead to 14-7. The drive was kept alive by a pass interference call on FDU\'s Justin Williams on a fourth-and-12 from the Florham 15-yard line, that resulted in the ball being spotted on the Devil two. After forcing the Devils to go three-and-punt on their next possession, Juniata\'s Tyler Hall returned the ensuing punt 83 yards for what would have been the game-tying touchdown, but the play was called back on an block to the back penalty on the Juniata 27. That was one of two would-have-been Eagle touchdowns that were negated; on Juniata\'s opening drive of the second half, an 18-yard Leonard-to-Tippett hookup was wiped off the board when officials ruled Tippett didn\'t get one foot in the endzone. Juniata did draw closer to the Devils early in the fourth quarter, when Smith connected on a 33-yard field goal and cut the FDU lead to 14-10 with 10:45 remaining. The drive was also helped by a pass interference call on Florham, on a first-and-ten play on FDU\'s 26. After forcing the Devils to punt after three plays, giving the ball to the Eagles with 9:22 to play, Leonard hooked up with Tippett on the first play of the drive from scrimmage. Leonard finished the day completing 22 of 44 pass attempts for 260 yards, accounting for most of Juniata\'s 289 yards of total offense. Senior Chad Steiner hauled in six receptions for 74 yards, while Tippett had 84 yards on his four catches. McKechnie carried 21 times in his collegiate debut, but managed just 28 net yards on the day. Most importantly, Juniata did not commit a turnover. Defensively, junior Josh Roy recorded 15 total tackles, including 10 solo stops, with 2.5 tackles for loss and one sack. Brandon Spayd tallied 12 tackles, and Tyler Hall had nine. \"We didn\'t start well, we let them get up early, and then we focused and got back into it as the game went on, but we just can\'t let teams get up on us early like that,\" said Alt. \"I think that our kids were in good condition and, in spite of the heat, we were ready physically to play this game. We just came out and let them get on the board fast against us, and you can\'t do that in college.\" The Eagles return to Knox Stadium for their 2007 home opener this Saturday, Sept. 15, when they host Ursinus College at 1:00 p.m. Ursinus, the preseason pick to win the Centennial Conference in a vote of the league\'s coaches, is coming off a 17-14 overtime win over Lycoming College.

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Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.