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Football drops Centennial opener against Ursinus, 31-0

(Posted September 19, 2009)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Ursinus College employed a balanced rushing and passing attack to upend Juniata College, 31-0, in the Eagles' 2009 Centennial Conference opener on Saturday afternoon at Knox Stadium.

Ursinus finished with 441 yards of total offense, 239 of it through the air and 202 yards through the ground game.

Juniata tallied 154 yards of total offense, led by senior quarterback Alex Snyder's (Boalsburg, Pa./State College Area) 66 yards passing. Snyder completed six of his 27 pass attempts, and did not throw an interception. Matt Dunker (Glenshaw, Pa./Shaler) was Snyder's favorite target, hauling in six receptions for 52 yards.

On the ground, tailback Derek Kramer tallied 24 yards on seven carries, while Snyder rambled for 27 yards - most of it with an 18-yard pick-up with a dash up the middle on a broken play in the second quarter.

"You make adjustments at halftime, but in this case we made the adjustment in the first quarter and tried to run on the perimeter and get to the edge a little," said Juniata head coach Carmen Felus. "We weren't really able to do that successfully. We've got to be able to run it to keep our defense off the field, so we're going to continue to try and run it. We're not a team that can throw the ball 50 or 60 times a game, have success doing it, and then risk having some three-and-outs."

"We're not good enough to do it on defense to play a lot of snaps, and we're not good enough on offense to throw the ball. So we do have to establish the run," said Felus.

Defensively, Juniata was forced to contend with the loss of three starters in the lineup. Free safety Jordan Baird (Sayre, Pa./Athens) is out for the rest of the season following season-ending surgery on Thursday, while both strong safety Brandon Spayd (Huntingdon, Pa./Huntingdon Area) and outside linebacker Tyler Hall (Alexandria, Pa./Juniata Valley) were sidelined this week with injuries.

Sophomore linebacker Ed Cooney (Queens, N.Y./St. Francis Prep) moved into Hall's spot in the starting lineup and led the Eagles with eight total tackles, including four solo stops. Senior safety Bean Ryan (Clearfield, Pa./Clearfield), starting in place of Baird, tallied seven tackles including four unassisted. Senior safety Zach Wakefield (Hummelstown, Pa./Lower Dauphin), starting for Spayd, finished with six tackles, as did sophomore lineman Jason Marquis (Jeannette, Pa./Jeannette).

"I thought the three of them, Cooney, Ryan, and Wakefield, did a nice job of going in there and competing," said Felus. "I feel bad for (defensive coordinator) Tom Gibboney; Ursinus is running all these crossing routes, and he's calling the right defense to a man, and we should have been okay. But we were just getting beat at the point of attack."

Ursinus (1-2, 1-0 Centennial) tallied 14 points in the first quarter, with both touchdowns coming off the arm of Bears quarterback Justin Decristofaro. Decristofaro connected with Nick Giarratano on a two-yard pass play with 5:59 remaining in the first quarter, completing an eight-play, 56-yard drive.

After holding Juniata to three-and-out on its next possession, the Eagles buried Ursinus deep in its own territory thanks to a 49-yard Owen Phillips (West Chester, Pa./Downingtown West) punt. However four plays later, on a first-and-ten at the Ursinus 33, Decristofaro hit receiver Al Desiderio on a 12-yard slant play on the left sideline. Desiderio broke a pair of tackles, and raced the remaining 55 yards down the sideline for the Bears' second touchdown of the quarter with 2:17 remaining.

Decristofaro finished a seven-play, 62-yard drive with a four-yard touchdown rush at the 13:05 mark of the second quarter, putting Ursinus in front 21-0. The Bears' Keith Baker hit a 25-yard field goal attempt with just 32 seconds remaining in the quarter, extending the lead to 24-0.

Decristofaro finished the day 16-of-31 passing for 234 yards, while Desiderio hauled in three receptions for 93 yards. Kahlil Pittman was Ursinus' most active receiver with five receptions for 47 yards.

Sophomore backup tailback Travis Evans led the Bears' ground attack with a career-high 124 yards on 19 carries.

"They've got some athletes; that quarterback (Decristofaro) is one of the premier quarterbacks you're going to see in the Centennial Conference," said Felus. "And you look at their two defensive backs, Chris Rountree and Mike Rissmiller, they're athletically what they're supposed to be at those two positions. They look the part, and they play the part."

Juniata's best scoring opportunity of the day came as time expired at the end of the second quarter.

After taking over at their own 35 with just 32 seconds on the clock, the Eagles moved the ball downfield with a five-yard pass to Dunker followed by a seven-yard rush by Kramer. Juniata reached Ursinus territory on a 14-yard hookup from Snyder to tight end Ronnie Shrift (Altoona, Pa./Bishop Guilfoyle), and a 15-yard Snyder-to-Dunker pass play left Juniata with a first-and-ten at the Bears' 24 with only seconds on the clock.

A Snyder pass attempt as time expired was unsuccessful, but Ursinus was called for roughing the passer. That gave Juniata the ball on the Ursinus 12 with one last crack at the endzone, but Snyder's pass attempt in the corner of the endzone to Tyler Sasala (Homer City, Pa./Homer Center) was overthrown to end the half.

"I think the most frustrating thing for the players and the coaches is this: we can't continue to do the same things over, and over, and over, and expect different results. That's the definition of insanity. Until our players understand that it takes all three phases of the game, that you've got to play every play with great effort, and you have to be in the right positions and be aligned, we're going to continue to have the results we've been having. And none of that has anything to do with athletic ability."

Juniata completes its three-game home stand next Saturday when it hosts Franklin & Marshall College at 1:00 p.m. at Knox Stadium.

For a video recap of this game, click here.

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