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Football falls to Allegheny 13-0 in defensive battle

(Posted September 5, 2009)

MEADVILLE, Pa. -- The Juniata College football team hung in against Allegheny College right into the fourth quarter before dropping a 13-0 decision to the host Gators, Saturday afternoon at Frank B. Fuhrer Field.

Juniata's defense held Allegheny, picked to finish fourth this season in the North Coast Athletic Conference, to just 255 yards of total offense. The Eagles also held Gator quarterback T.J. Salopek, who has amassed over 3,200 yards passing over his first two seasons, to 183 yards on 16-of-28 passing.

The Eagles (0-1) posted 157 yards of offense, led by senior quarterback Alex Snyder's (Boalsburg, Pa./State College Area) 113 yards passing. Making the first start of his collegiate career, Snyder completed 10 of his 22 attempts, and did not throw an interception. Senior wideout Matt Dunker (Glenshaw, Pa./Shaler) hauled in five of Snyder's 10 completions for 72 yards receiving.

Junior Tyler Sasala (Homer City, Pa./Homer Center) led the ground game with 19 yards on six carries, but he was one of only six different ball carriers for the Eagles. Juniata rushed 37 times against a veteran Allegheny front, and came away with 44 net yards.

The Gators (1-0) were paced offensively by quarterback T.J. Salopek, who rushed for 34 yards while completing 16 of 28 pass attempts for 183 yards and one touchdown. Four different Allegheny receivers had at least three receptions, led by Terry Hartford's four catches for 39 yards.

Defensively, junior linebacker Chris Stephens (Birdsboro, Pa./Daniel Boone) had a team-high nine total tackles for Juniata, while junior lineman Matt Walton (West Chester, Pa./Downingtown West) tallied eight tackles, seven of which were solo stops, with one sack and 2.5 tackles for loss.

Senior cornerback Kyle McKechnie (Shillington, Pa./Governor Mifflin), making his first start on the defensive side of the ball after playing tailback for Juniata in each of the last two seasons, tallied six total tackles.

"This went about the way a first game's going to go," said Juniata head coach Carmen Felus. "We had some administrative things that we need to take care of on both sides of the ball, but I thought defensively our kids came out and did a real nice job. We didn't do a real good job of moving the football early on, but I thought our defense kept us in the game in the first half."

Allegheny broke onto the scoreboard first with Ryan Zipf's 20 yard field goal with 2:34 remaining in the first quarter, capping a nine-play, 33-yard drive. Juniata's McKechnie saved a touchdown earlier in the drive, getting a hand on Salopek's pass attempt to Hartford in the right corner of the Juniata endzone.

The Gators added to their lead at the 10:41 mark of the third quarter, on Salopek's 30-yard pass to Mark Sutton on a post pattern route. Cornerback Andy Miller tried to haul down Sutton before he broke the plane, but Sutton wrestled past him and into the endzone. Sutton's catch was the third play of the 41-yard drive that lasted just 35 seconds, widening the Allegheny lead to 10-0.

A second 20-yard field goal by Zipf at the 3:15 mark of the third quarter finished the Gators' scoring.

Juniata's best opportunities to score came in the fourth quarter, as the Eagles threatened to turn the contest into a one-possession affair down the stretch, and was set up by the defensive highlight of the day for Juniata.

Senior defensive back Beau Ryan (Clearfield, Pa./Clearfield) picked off a Salopek pass at the Juniata 30 with 13:26 remaining in the game, and returned the ball 13 yards to set up the Eagles with a first down at their own 43 yard line.

Snyder hooked up with Dunker on a 43-yard pass play that gave the Eagles a first-and-ten at the Gator 14-yard line. A Snyder scramble gave Juniata a fourth-and-one on the Allegheny 6, but tailback Derek Kramer was stopped just inches shy of the first down marker. The ball reverted to the Gators on downs, with just 8:30 remaining in the quarter.

After forcing Allegheny to go three-and-out, Juniata regained possession at the Gator 40-yard line with 6:54 remaining. The Eagles were in turn forced to go three-and-punt, and pinned the Gators at their four-yard line thanks to a 45-yard punt by Owen Phillips (West Chester, Pa./Downingtown West).

Any Juniata hopes of a rally were squashed as Allegheny consumed over four minutes of clock time to advance 24 yards. A 47-yard punt by the Gators' Andrew DeJong pushed the Eagles back to their own 25-yard line, and Juniata's ensuing drive stalled out at the Allegheny 32 as time expired.

"Offensively, we did some good things," said Felus. "We had a couple big pass plays in the second half, and we protected the ball and didn't turn it over. We tried to run the football, and we won the time of possession battle in the first half. We made this a fourth quarter game, and that's sort of how we have to play things right now because we're young on offense."

The Eagles were hampered by poor field position in the second quarter, as Juniata started three of its four drives in the second from inside the 20-yard line. Two of those began at the three- and seven-yard lines respectively; both ended with Juniata punter Owen Phillips (West Chester, Pa./Downingtown West) being forced to punt from barely a yard away from the back of the end zone.

Phillips snared a high snap on the first of those two back-against-the-wall punt attempts, and still managed to produce a 43-yard punt that backed Allegheny out to the 50-yard line.

"Field position hurt us in the second quarter, and that's what we tried to talk to our guys about - establishing field position. But our guys have nothing to be ashamed of รข?" this (Allegheny) is a quality football team. Let's not forget who Allegheny is; they're picked to finish fourth in their conference and they're an experienced team. They're an older team."

Juniata makes its 2009 home debut next Saturday, Sept. 12, as it hosts Susquehanna University at 1:00 p.m. at Knox Stadium.

GAME NOTES: The two punters, Juniata's Phillips and Allegheny's DeJong, had big days; Phillips recorded one 50-yard punt while averaging 41.3 yards and three times pinned the Gators inside their 20, while DeJong averaged 45.6 yards with two 50-yarders and put Juniata inside its 20 on four occasions... Juniata was just 3 of 17 on third downs, while Allegheny was 4 of 14... the Juniata women's soccer team, which played in Erie, Pa., at a tournament at Penn State-Behrend on Saturday morning, traveled down to Meadville to support the football team and caught most of the fourth quarter... Juniata President Tom Kepple was also in attendance at the game.

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