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Leonard sets Juniata passing record in 21-17 loss at Ursinus

(Posted September 20, 2008)

COLLEGEVILLE, Pa. -- The good, the bad, and the ugly were all on display Saturday at Ursinus College's Patterson Field, as the host Bears downed Juniata College, 21-17, in the Centennial Conference football opener for both squads.

The good was found in the passing performance of senior quarterback Jay Leonard (Newville, Pa./Big Spring), who completed 22 of 54 passing attempts for 212 yards in the losing effort, but became Juniata's all-time career passing leader in the process.

Leonard now has 6,305 yards career passing, eclipsing the previous mark of 6,215 yards set by Greg Troutman (2001-04). The effort was the 18th 200-yard passing performance of Leonard's career, and also allowed the Eagle signal caller to move to within 13 completions of breaking Troutman's career completions record as well.

The bad was Ursinus's five play, 54-yard fourth quarter scoring drive, that allowed the Bears to regain the lead with just 6:19 remaining in the game.

After trailing 14-3 at the half, the Eagles (0-3, 0-1 Centennial) scored one touchdown in the third quarter and another just seconds into the fourth to take a 17-14 lead over Ursinus.

Juniata's third quarter TD, cutting the lead to 14-9, came at the 6:47 mark of the frame on a 27-yard pass from Leonard to tight end Ronnie Shrift (Altoona, Pa./Bishop Guilfoyle). The score capped a 10-play, 59 yard scoring drive lasting nearly four minutes, that began on the Juniata 41-yard line following Tyler Hall's (Alexandria, Pa./Juniata Valley) 18-yard punt return.

After holding Ursinus to three-and-punt on its ensuing possession, Juniata regained possession at its own 23-yard line. The Eagles proceeded to march 77 yards downfield over the next 5:03, finally scoring on a four-yard TD rush by Dan Zentz (Lutherville, Md./Calvert Hall) to take a 15-14 lead. Juniata successfully made the two-point conversion to widen the lead to 17-14, after Leonard hit Shift with a pass in the end zone.

Ursinus (2-1, 1-0 Centennial) drove to the Juniata seven-yard line on its next possession, but came away without any points as Bear kicker Greg Zara hit the right upright with his 24-yard field goal attempt.

However the Bears would take the lead just four minutes later, after the Ursinus defense held Juniata in check on the ensuing possession to allow the Bears to go on offense with a relatively short field. Ursinus' Nick Dye scored what proved to be the game-winning points with his 24-yard touchdown run, giving the Bears a 21-17 lead.

Juniata twice reached midfield late in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, but both times the drives expired on fourth down plays.

Juniata's only scoring drive in the first half began with Brandon Spayd's (Huntingdon, Pa./Huntingdon Area) 37-yard kickoff return, which let the Eagle offense start working from its own 47-yard line. That eventually led to Zentz's 21-yard field goal, making the score 14-3 in Ursinus' favor with 3:46 remaining in the second quarter.

Ursinus' two first half touchdowns were both scored on short fields. The first was a 34-yard touchdown pass from Dye to Al Desiderio at the 7:14 mark of the first quarter, at the end of a four-play, 40-yard drive that lasted just 2:13. The second was a three-yard rushing TD by Mark Jaskowski with 7:57 remaining in the second quarter, after Ursinus took over possession at the Juniata 16-yard line.

Chad Steiner (Frederick, Md./Frederick) and Shift led the receivers with five receptions each, with Steiner's catches gaining 70 yards while Shift picked up 62 yards. Kyle McKechnie (Shillington, Pa./Governor Mifflin) led the ground game with 30 yards on six carries.

The Eagles totaled 276 yards of total offense, to Ursinus' 321. For the first time this season, Juniata won the possession battle, hanging onto the ball for 31:27. The Eagles also committed just one turnover, which occurred on a fourth-and-10 play late in the fourth quarter, in which Juniata did not gain a first down and would have lost the ball on downs anyway.

Defensively, Juniata was led by Spayd with seven total tackles, including two for loss, and Josh Roy (Fredericksburg, Pa./Northern Lebanon) who also had seven tackles. Matthew Walton (West Chester, Pa./Downingtown) had 1.5 sacks for three yards among his five total tackles, while Justin Bell (Hanover, Pa./Littlestown) and Jason Marquis (Jeannette, Pa./Jeannette) each had three tackles with two tackles for loss.

The ugly for Juniata was the loss left the Eagles still looking for their first Centennial Conference victory. The Eagles will face their geographically closest Centennial Conference rival, Franklin & Marshall College, next Saturday, Sept. 27, at 1:00 p.m. on Sponaugle-Williamson Field in Lancaster, Pa. The Diplomats (1-2, 0-1 Centennial) are coming off a 34-20 loss at Dickinson College, in a game played Friday night on Dickinson's Biddle Field.

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