Football Moves to 3-0 Behind Its Defense
Sept. 22, 2012
"That's a well-coached football team," Lafayette head coach Frank Tavani said of Bucknell. "Those kids battled, but our kids battled a little harder. We did what we had to do, again, when we had to do it."
The Lafayette defense was coming off a seven-interception performance a week ago against Penn. Kyni Scott continued that trend on Saturday, picking off Bucknell quarterback Brandon Wesley near midfield in the first quarter. A 24-yard pass from senior QB Andrew Shoop to Greg Kessel started the drive and a 19-yard strike to Rodney Gould followed. Vaughn Hebron ran 13 yards to the one-yard line before Kessel's plunge off left tackle put Lafayette ahead 7-0.
The Maroon and White took advantage of a pair of Bucknell miscues in the second quarter, using a roughing the passer call and a pass interference citation to eat up 30 yards. Shoop also connected with Mark Ross for a 15-yard pickup on 3rd-and-15 near midfield.
Freshman Ryan Gralish, who took over placekicking duties in week two against Penn, converted a 46-yard field goal on the first attempt of the reigning Patriot League Rookie of the Week's career. The drive covered 34 yards on nine plays and gave Lafayette a 10-0 lead with 9:46 left in the half.
Midway through the second quarter, Wesley broke out for a 45-yard run after nearly being sacked twice in the backfield. Bucknell faced a 3rd-and-goal at the 12 before a Wesley strike to Nick Gatto put Bucknell within three, 10-7, at 5:20.
The back and forth continued on the Leopards' next drive. Playing in front of a hometown audience, Shoop didn't disappoint. No. 7 went 8-for-8 for 68 yards on the drive and he lofted his eighth pass, for eight yards, to Brandon Hall for the score just before halftime. Lafayette led 17-7. Shoop finished the game 22-of-34 for 278 yards and a touchdown, including six completions for 71 yards to freshman WR Jamel Smith.
The Leopards' advantage stayed at 10 points through a scoreless third quarter. In the fourth quarter, Darius Safford, who was coming off a two-interception game vs. Penn, stripped Wesley of the ball and Kyle Sakowski recovered. Lafayette took over on the Bucknell 37, but was stopped on downs with 8:45 left in the game.
"We had tons of opportunities," Tavani said of the offense whose average field position was the Leopards' 41-yard line compared Bucknell's average starting position of its own 21. "I certainly will be most disappointed with not doing something with great field position. Field position is something that's a huge part of the game, something that's an emphasis week in, week out. We had great field position and opportunities and didn't get it done."
The Leopards' defense came through again on Bucknell's ensuing possession. Jared Roberts intercepted a Wesley offering and Roberts' 37-yard runback put Lafayette 1st-and-10 at the Bucknell 14-yard line with 8:22 remaining. Gralish booted a 26-yard field goal and stretched Lafayette's margin to 20-7.
Down by two scores, Bucknell did not wilt, instead moving the ball for a nine-play, 73-yard march. Wesley's 12-yard scramble was the culminating play and brought the Bison within six, 20-14.
Bucknell attempted an onsides kick, but sophomore TB Ross Scheuerman recovered as he did in the Leopards' season-opening win at William & Mary. Lafayette took over at its own 48 and ran for losses on the initial two plays. On the day, Bucknell (2-1, 0-1) held Lafayette to just 11 yards rushing.
Shoop found Gould for a seven-yard gain before Lafayette was forced to punt. Ethan Swerdlow's punt went into the endzone and Bucknell took over at the 20-yard line with 2:04 left on the clock.
The Bison were just short of midfield when Wesley converted a 4th-and-1 with a 16-yard pass to Charle Thompson to keep the drive alive. On 3rd-and -10 at the Bucknell 45, freshman Chris Brockman made the biggest play of his young career with an 11-yard sack of the elusive Wesley. On the day, Lafayette sacked Wesley four times with sophomore Shane Dorner accounting for the other three in the first start of his collegiate career. Wesley's final pass of the game was incomplete and ended a day in which he was 18-for-33 for 239 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
"Shane has worked extremely hard and was really excited about getting his first opportunity. I had all of the confidence in the world he was going to perform and do the job," Tavani said. "He does a couple of different things that you don't notice defensively. He plays SAM linebacker or our anchor (defensive line) and that's tough to do. He basically knows two jobs and works extremely hard at it."
Mike Boles led the team with 10 tackles while Roberts and Safford had six apiece. Jason Marshalek, a native of nearby Montoursville, Pa. had two tackles as Lafayette's starting front four had 11 stops.
A week from today, Lafayette (3-0, 1-0) travels west to Pittsburgh to face Robert Morris in non-conference action.
Lafayette has won 10 of the last 11 meetings with Bucknell.
Saturday's game was televised live by CBS Sports Network.
The Leopards are 2-0 in 2012 when wearing white jerseys with black pants.
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