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Juniata football gets strong defensive showing, but falls to Ursinus 21-7

(Posted October 15, 2011)

COLLEGEVILLE, Pa. -- Juniata College's defensive unit took center stage and set the table for an upset, but the Eagles' first half offensive momentum was squelched in the second half in a 21-7 Centennial Conference loss to Ursinus College, Saturday afternoon at Patterson Field.

Defensively, the Eagles (0-6, 0-5 Centennial) held Ursinus to a season-low 259 yards offense - 90 yards below their average coming into the contest.

Juniata outgained Ursinus (4-2, 4-1 Centennial) in the first half, 135 yards to the Bears' 112, including a touchdown at the 8:03 of the first quarter to take a 7-0 lead.

After holding Ursinus to three-and-out on the game's opening possession, Juniata quarterback Ward Udinski (Doylestown, Pa./Central Bucks West) engineered a 10 play, 75-yard drive that he capped with a 13-yard TD rush. Udinski also had a pivotal run earlier in the drive, rushing for 20 yards on 3rd-and-8 at the Juniata 38, pushing the drive into Ursinus' end of the field.

The Eagle defense held the Bears to three-and-out on Ursinus' next two possessions, and Juniata threatened to take a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter. Taking advantage of a short field, Juniata breached the Ursinus red zone before a holding penalty and a fumble ended the drive.

Neither squad was able to muster much offense in its next few series. Ursinus' ensuing drive resulted in a 44-yard field goal attempt that was wide right, but the Eagles fumbled deep in their own territory two plays later to return possession back to the Bears. A pass attempt by Ursinus' Chris Curran on the very next play was picked off by Juniata cornerback Andy Masullo (Bellefonte, Pa./Bellefonte), but the Eagles were held to three-and-out on their ensuing possession.

Ursinus finally got on the board at the 6:08 mark of the second quarter, when Curran hit receiver Al Desiderio for a 38-yard touchdown strike to knot the game at 7-7.

The Bears doubled their lead four plays later. After holding Juniata on its next possession, Desiderio returned the punt 65 yards for a touchdown, extending the Bears' lead to 14-7 with 4:12 showing on the second quarter clock.

Juniata fumbled the ball on its own 14-yard line on the next possession, but the Eagle defense held Ursinus at bay thanks to back-to-back sacks - the first by sophomore Jared Shope (Altoona, Pa./Altoona Area) and David Weiss (Middletown, Md./Middletown), with Weiss getting a solo sack on the next play.

The Bears' 42-yard field goal attempt was short of the mark, and Juniata went into the intermission trailing by a touchdown.

Juniata did not have nearly the same success on offense in the second half. The Eagles' lone first down of the half came on the first play from scrimmage after the kickoff, as Zach McCaulley (Bellwood, Pa./Bellwood-Antis) rushed for 13 yards to take the ball out to the Juniata 41.

That drive stalled at the Juniata 45-yard line, and the Eagles were held to three-and-out on their remaining five possessions of the game.

Ursinus, meanwhile, recorded 10 first downs on 147 yards offense over the final 30 minutes. The Bears didn't add to their lead until the 2:54 mark of the fourth quarter, when Curran completed a seven-play, 37-yard drive with a one-yard TD run.

Udinski led Juniata offensively with 17 carries for 69 yards on the ground, and 64 yards passing on seven completions of his 15 attempts. McCaulley had four carries for 22 yards. Nicholas Stubbs (Hagerstown, Md./South Hagerstown) made his debut on the offensive side of the football for Juniata, and recorded 12 yards rushing on four carries.

Hunter Phillips (Funkstown, Md./South Hagerstown) led the receiving corps with three catches for 13 yards, while De'Sean Popley (Philadelphia, Pa./Academy of the New Church) had 36 yards on two receptions.

Defensively, Noah Walstrom (Altoona, Pa./Altoona Area) led with nine total tackles, with Weiss finishing the game with seven total tackles including a team-high six solo stops.

For Ursinus, Curran was 11-for-24 through the air for 154 yards, with Desiderio ending up with 60 yards on three catches. Jerry Rahill was the Bears' top receiver with four receptions totaling 45 yards. Bryan Ellis had 72 yards rushing on 20 carries.

Juniata returns home next Saturday, Oct. 22, to host Muhlenberg College in a Centennial Conference game. Kick-off is scheduled for 1:00 p.m.

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