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Juniata defense smothers McDaniel, leads Eagle football to 12-10 victory

(Posted October 4, 2008)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- A suffocating Juniata College defense and a balanced offensive attack combined to lead the Eagles to a 12-10 victory over McDaniel College, in Centennial Conference football action Saturday afternoon at Knox Stadium in Huntingdon, Pa.

Senior quarterback Jay Leonard (Newville, Pa./Big Spring) led the Juniata offense with 186 yards passing, completing 15 of his 30 pass attempts, and rushing for 27 yards to lead the Eagles to their first Centennial Conference victory.

The Eagles (1-4, 1-2 Centennial), who entered the game averaging 57 yards per game on the ground, used an option-style attack and finished with 153 yards rushing - nearly half of their season-high 339 yards of total offense. Sophomore tailback Kyle McKechnie (Shillington, Pa./Governer Mifflin) carried 21 times for 67 yards, while backup tailback Derek Kramer (Newville, Pa./Big Spring) rushed for 60 yards on 15 carries.

Defensively, Juniata kept McDaniel bottled up all afternoon.

The Green Terror (2-3, 1-2 Centennial) finished with 192 yards of total offense, but 70 yards of that came on one play - a touchdown run by T.J. Develin on a third-and-3 play from the McDaniel 30-yard. That score finished a short three-play scoring drive for McDaniel on its first possession of the game, and quickly put the Green Terror on top, 7-0, at the 11:43 mark of the first quarter.

After that score, the Green Terror would not chalk up another first down until the first play of the fourth quarter.

"It came down to a few plays today, and we made those plays," said Juniata head coach Darrell Alt.

"I can't say enough about our defense. I can't say enough about Coach Gibboney, who works his tail off, and our players. The adjustments today were stellar and the kids made tackles," said Alt.

Juniata responded to the McDaniel touchdown with a 56-yard drive to the Green Terror 14-yard line, but Leonard pitch to the fullback on an option play was dropped, and recovered by McDaniel with 6:00 remaining in the opening quarter.

The Eagle defense held on the ensuing possession and forced the Green Terror to punt, and Tyler Hall's (Alexandria, Pa./Juniata Valley) 16-yard return allowed to Juniata to begin work from midfield. Juniata capitalized on the opportunity, finishing a 33-yard scoring drive with Andrew Masullo's (Bellefonte, Pa./Bellefonte Area) 26-yard field goal to cut the McDaniel lead to 7-3.

Juniata's first drive of the second half began at the Eagle nine-yard line, and was fueled by a 25-yard crossing route pass to Lance Curry (Palmyra, Pa./Palmyra Area). Curry received a timely block by Stephen Cohn (Haddonfield, N.J./Haddonfield) and turned up field for what ended up as a 47-yard gain. A 16-yard completion from Leonard to Chad Steiner (Frederick, Md./Frederick) on fourth down moved the Eagles inside the McDaniel 10-yard line. Juniata eventually added another 26-yard field goal by Masullo with 6:00 left in the third quarter, and the Eagles trailed by just one point, 7-6.

After again holding McDaniel to a three-and-punt possession, Juniata started with the ball on its own 37-yard line, after a 36-yard punt return by Brandon Spayd (Huntingdon, Pa./Huntingdon Area). A second-down reception by Matt Dunker (Glenshaw, Pa./Shaler) later in the drive moved the ball to the McDaniel one-yard line, and Leonard carried the ball the remaining yard for the touchdown. Juniata's two-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful, and the Eagles took a 12-7 lead with 1:21 left in the third quarter.

McDaniel's Paul Smith returned the ensuing kickoff 41 yards to the Juniata 43-yard line, giving the Green Terror a short field with which to work. A nine-yard reception from Zach Swope to Matt Cahill that moved the ball to the Eagle 28-yard line, gaving McDaniel just its second first down of the game. The Eagle defense eventually held on a third-and-4 play at the Juniata 9, and the Green Terror were forced to settle for a 26-yard field goal by Jay Leonard to cut the Juniata lead to 12-10 with 10:50 remaining in the game.

Juniata's next drive was aided by a 37-yard pass play from Leonard to Dunker, moving the ball to the McDaniel 15. The Eagles went for the touchdown on a fourth-and-goal from the McDaniel three-yard line, but Curry's apparent touchdown catch in the back of the endzone was ruled incomplete, and the Green Terror regained the ball on downs with 3:01 left on the clock.

McDaniel's drive for go-ahead points ended on the McDaniel 34-yard line, when a fourth down pass to Matt Cahill was ruled caught out of bounds, giving the ball back to the Eagles.

Juniata's Jay Leonard took a knee once to run out the clock, and the celebration began on the Eagle sidelines.

The Eagles held onto the ball for over 38 minutes of the game, as a very run-oriented Juniata offense chewed up clock time along with yards, and the Eagles' "Black Flag" defense held McDaniel to three-and-punt on seven of its 10 possessions.

"We're growing more towards an option football team," said Alt. "We like our personnel that are younger, and an option's where we're headed in the future."

Josh Roy (Fredericksburg, Pa./Northern Lebanon) led the Eagle defense with 10 tackles, including three solo stops. Hall tallied seven tackles on the day, while Jordan Baird (Sayre, Pa./Athens Area), JD Jones (Walkersville, Md./Gov. Thomas Johnson), and Spayd had five each.

Juniata will head back out on the road next Saturday, traveling to Allentown, Pa., to face Muhlenberg College. The Mules, ranked fifth in Division III in this week's d3football.com poll, are coming off a 28-23 win over Johns Hopkins.

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