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Juniata football falls to Moravian in triple-overtime

(Posted October 26, 2008)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- A Moravian College touchdown in the third overtime series, on the heels of a blocked 42-yard Juniata College field goal attempt, allowed the Greyhounds to post a 23-17 triple overtime win on Saturday afternoon at Knox Stadium in Huntingdon, Pa.

Moravian's Marc Braxmeier capped the eight-play drive with a one-yard touchdown rush for the game-winning score, in a game that Juniata seemed to have well in hand with under two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

Juniata held Moravian, who began the day as the Centennial's top rushing offense averaging 216 yards per game, to just 150 net yards on the ground. As a unit, the Juniata defense recorded 16.0 tackles for loss that pushed the Greyhounds back 58 yards, and prevented Moravian from achieving more than one first down on nine of 10 second-half possessions.

"I am, without question, so pleased with that defensive effort today - they did a tremendous job," said Juniata head coach Darrell Alt. "I think the pass defense was what it needed to be, because we were playing so well against the run. By the way we were playing against the run, we were forcing them into uncomfortable situations. We really felt we had to stop the run against these guys, because they've just run the ball so well against so many people."

Senior linebacker Josh Roy (Fredericksburg, Pa./Northern Lebanon) had a career-high 18 total tackles, with 3.5 tackles-for-loss of 11 yards. Jordan Baird (Sayre, Pa./Athens Area) finished with 17 tackles, including a game-high 10 solo stops and 1.5 tackles-for-loss. Jason Marquis (Jeannette, Pa./Jeannette), Tyler Hall (Alexandria, Pa./Juniata Valley), and Brandon Spayd (Huntingdon, Pa./Huntingdon) all finished with 10 tackles.

The Eagles took a 14-7 lead in the third quarter, scoring on their first two possessions of the frame. Quarterback Jay Leonard (Newville, Pa./Big Spring) hit Matt Dunker (Glenshaw, Pa./Shaler) on a three-yard scoring strike at the 12:10 mark of the third quarter, capping an eight-play, 60-yard drive that tied the game at 7-7. Juniata then took a 14-7 lead with 6:23 showing, when Leonard hooked up with Chad Steiner (Frederick, Md./Frederick) on a 10-yard TD pass play that concluded a seven-play, 80-yard drive.

Dunker had the pivotal play of the drive, hauling in a 31-yard pass from Leonard with an acrobatic catch that set-up the Eagle offense with a first-and-goal at the Moravian 10.

"Our offensive coaches did some great things making adjustments (in the second half)," said Alt. "We wanted to challenge their corners a little bit, and we did that. Our players responded to those adjustments and made plays. It was a team effort on the offensive side of the ball to get that lead up there."

Juniata had an opportunity to widen its lead even further, when Braxmeier's pass on the first play from scrimmage after the Eagle touchdown was picked off by cornerback Andy Miller (Lancaster, Pa./Manheim Township) and returned six yards to the Moravian 20-yard line. However four straight Leonard pass attempts went incomplete, and the ball went back to the Greyhounds on downs.

The Eagle lead held up through the end of the fourth quarter. A Juniata fumble on its own 41-yard line with 1:51 left in the fourth quarter gave Moravian the ball with a short field, and the Greyhounds capitalized five plays later when Braxmeier connected with Tyler Hersch on a five-yard touchdown play that tied the game at 14-14 with 30 seconds remaining in regulation.

"I made the call - I wanted the ball in the fullback's hands in that situation," said Alt about the fumble. "That young man was fighting for extra yardage, and the ball popped out of there on him on a rainy day."

Leonard's final minute attempt in put the Eagles back into field goal range was brought to an abrupt end, when his pass attempt was intercepted by Moravian's Daniel Burley and returned 44 yards to the Juniata 22-yard line. Officials ruled there was one second on the clock when Burley was tackled, allowing the Greyhounds time for a game-winning field goal attempt, but Brian Reckenbeil's 39-yard attempt was wide left, setting the stage for overtime.

Juniata had a 38-yard field goal attempt blocked in the first OT series, while the 25-yard field goal attempt by Moravian's Reckenbeil was wide left. Reckenbeil redeemed himself with a 28-yarder to put Moravian ahead 17-13 to open the second OT series, but Juniata's Tyler Thomas (Coalport, Pa./Glendale) answered with a 27-yard field goal to force the third overtime.

The Eagles were unable to get a first down on their possession to open the third OT, and Thomas' 42-yard attempt was blocked. Moravian responded by moving the 25 yards for a touchdown on eight plays, capped by the Braxmeier TD rush to win the game.

Juniata was not alone in struggling with special teams; Moravian failed to convert on a pair of field goal opportunities early in the contest.

The Greyhounds took their opening possession 47 yards on six plays, but Reckenbeil's 27-yard field goal attempt to end the drive caromed off the right upright. A 38-yard field goal attempt by the Greyhounds on their second possession was also unsuccessful, this time blocked by Spayd.

Moravian finally ended the scoring drought with 9:19 showing in the second quarter, when Braxmeier put the Greyhounds in front 7-0 on his one-yard touchdown rush. The five-play, 47-yard drive began with Shawn Sylvanius' 31-yard reception from Braxmeier, that gave Moravian a first down at the Juniata 16-yard line.

Leonard finished the game 20-of-52 through the air for 180 yards, with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Steiner was Leonard's favorite target, hauling in six passes for 37 yards and one touchdown. Dunker made four receptions for 71 yards, and had one TD catch. Derek Kramer (Newville, Pa./Big Spring) led the Juniata ground game with 29 yards on 12 carries.

Moravian was led by backup tailback Ryan Rempe, who carried a school-record 51 times for 174 yards. Braxmeier finished the day 16-of-31 passing for 191 yards with one TD and two picked passes. Sylvanius caught 11 of those passes for 191 yards.

For Juniata and Moravian, this was their fifth overtime game since 1996, the first year overtime football was played in the NCAA. The Eagles have won just one of those five overtime games - a 23-20 win in Bethlehem in 1998.

Juniata makes its final road trip of the season next Saturday, when the Eagles head to Baltimore, Md., to face Johns Hopkins University.

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