Eagles Ride Big-play Defense to Fourth Win
(Posted September 30, 2002)
Coming into the 2002 season the talk about the Juniata College football team was the high-powered offense. Opponents are quickly learning something about the Eagles big-play defense.
Spurred by a defense that created six turnovers, including three on the first three possessions of the second-half, Juniata topped Wilkes 34-26 to move to 4-0 on the season. The win marks the first time since the 1986 season that Juniata has started 4-0.
Along with the three turnovers to start the second-half, the Eagle ?D? blocked what would have been the game-tying extra point, and then returned an interception for a touchdown to put the game away.
"Our defense just continues to create turnovers and make big plays," head coach Kevin Burke said. "To sit here and watch our defense come up big like this, it's a beautiful thing."
Juniata did allow 375 yards of total offense, but the defense allowed the offense to work with a short field on several occasions.
Neither team was able to get on the scoreboard in the first quarter. Wilkes got the offense going in the second frame, scoring on a 37-yard touchdown pass, and then adding a field goal to move ahead 10-0.
The Eagles responded with a 37-yard touchdown run by Craig Moshier, who finished the game with 84 yards rushing. A missed extra point sent the Eagles to the locker room trailing 10-6.
"I told our guys at halftime that they had made some big plays in the first half, and now it was our turn to make the big plays," Burke explained.
The Eagles took their coaches words to heart as the defense had an interception by Peter Thomas, a forced fumble by Jason Stouffer recovered by Aaron Snair, and an interception by Paul Evans, on Wilkes' first three possessions. Juniata took advantage, first on a three-yard run for a score by Craig Moshier to give Juniata the lead 13-10. After the Evans interception, quarterback Greg Troutman hit Andrew Raup for 29 yards to give the Eagles the lead 20-10.
A field goal, followed by a Wilkes touchdown with 7:35 remaining in the fourth quarter tied the game at 20.
The Eagle defense then stepped up again, forcing a fumble, which Bryan Latterner recovered on the Wilkes 24-yard line. Two plays later a touchdown pass to Nate Leach put Juniata up by seven again.
The Eagle offense managed 316 yards of total offense and scored 27 points, with all but one of their scores following a turnover by the defense. The Eagles also struggled on third and fourth down conversions, going a combined 5 of 22 in those situations.
"We weren't able to run the ball as effectively as we had in the past few weeks," Burke explained. "They have a tough defense and the really pressured our offense, but we made enough plays to get the win."
The Wilkes offense clawed back again, this time with a 57-yard touchdown pass on the second play after the kickoff. Senior outside linebacker Jason Stouffer then made one more big play blocking the extra point to maintain Juniata's one-point lead.
Then after the Juniata offense turned the ball over on downs, Stouffer put the game away with an interception return for a touchdown.
"We new coming in that it would be a close game, so that was no surprise," Burke said. "I was just very happy with the way we responded. Every time our guys needed to step up, they stepped up. It was a great team effort."
Troutman finished the game with 230 yards passing, completing 31 of his 54 passes. Moshier leads the team in touchdowns with seven after his two touchdowns today. Raup led the team with 97 yards receiving. It was the first time this season that Juniata has not had a 100-yard receiver. Defensively Matt Wharton led the defense with 12 tackles, six solo, six assisted and three of them for a loss. Freshman Peter Thomas recorded 11 tackles, and had his first career interception. Juniata had eight tackles for a loss, including four sacks.
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