Time Runs Out on Crusader Comeback

Time Runs Out on Crusader Comeback

SELINSGROVE, Pa. – A furious, late-game rally by the Susquehanna football team again fell just four points short as the Crusaders dropped a 24-20 battle to Muhlenberg in the final game before the Centennial Conference bye week.

SU (0-5, 0-4) trailed by 21 points at halftime before exploding for a 20-point second half performance. Unfortunately, a Muhlenberg field goal provided much-needed insurance for the Mules (4-1, 3-1) as they hung on for the win.

The story of the game, at least from the Crusaders' perspective, was the historic performance by junior running back Tim Wade (Doylestown, Pa./La Salle College HS). Wade rushed for 214 yards, fourth-most in SU single-game history. He carried the ball 31 times and averaged just under seven yards per carry.

That meant freshman quarterback Nick Crusco (Oak Ridge, N.J./Don Bosco Prep) was not asked to throw the ball as frequently and he finished 8-for-25 for 46 yards with two touchdowns but was sacked four times.

Muhlenberg certainly gave SU opportunities to grab momentum in the game as the Mules were penalized 10 times for 98 yards but they still managed to out-gain Susquehanna 404 to 252 in total offensive yards.

The first quarter was all Muhlenberg. The Mules got on the board just five minutes into the game on a Max Cepeda one-yard run. Crusco proceeded to throw his first pick of the game on SU's ensuing drive and Muhlenberg turned that interception into another touchdown, this time a Nick Palladino 28-yard pass to Michael Long for a 14-0 game after less than six minutes of action.

The Mules opened the second quarter with the ball and another Cepeda score just 58 seconds into the period put Susquehanna is a 21-0 hole.

The Crusaders punted on their next two possessions and late in the quarter, Crusco failed to convert on fourth-and-three when his pass to Denzell Walker (Baltimore, Md./McDonogh School) fell incomplete in what marked SU's final drive of the half.

Whatever speech was given at halftime in the Susquehanna locker room proved to be effective. The Crusaders got the ball to start the half and promptly put together a nine-play, 75-yard drive that ended in a 14-yard touchdown catch by Walker.

The Mules countered with a 25-yard field goal a mere 60 seconds, though, later for a 24-7 ballgame.

On the very next drive, Wade rushed five times to help move the ball to the Muhlenberg three and on third-and-goal, Crusco connected with Devon Pascoe (Spencerport, N.Y./Spencerport) for a touchdown that trimmed the Mules' lead to 10 (24-14) with 3:15 left in the third quarter.

It remained a 10-point game heading into the final 15 minutes of play. The Crusaders drove the ball to the Muhlenberg 18 but could not convert on third-and-10, prompting kicker Spencer Hotaling (Selinsgrove, Pa./Selinsgrove Area) for a 35-yard field goal attempt. The senior preseason All-American booted a 35-yarder and just like that, SU was within just four of the lead, 24-17.

Susquehanna's next possession ended in another Hotaling field goal, this time a 21-yarder that made it 24-20 with 6:36 still to play.

Muhlenberg turned the ball over on downs, giving the Crusaders 5:49 with which to work. Crusco and Wade led the team down to the Muhlenberg 35 but a fourth-and-13 pass to Will Howell (Philadelphia, Pa./Roman Catholic) was incomplete, giving the Mules the ball on their own 35-yard line.

The SU defense forced Muhlenberg to punt but with only 29 seconds on the clock, the Crusaders were forced to move quickly on offense. Crusco picked up a first down with a 12-yard run but three-straight incomplete passes marked the end of the game and a Muhlenberg win.

Jim Barry (Staten Island, N.Y./Brooklyn Poly Prep) again led the charge on defense for the Crusaders, finishing with 14 tackles (11 solo) while Tom McLoughlin (Bloomsbury, N.J./Bethlehem Catholic) had a big day with nine tackles and one critical fumble recovery.

Susquehanna is back in action on Oct. 18 with a 1 p.m. game at Moravian.