A balanced defensive attack that held Lycoming College scoreless for the final three quarters of the game and surrendered just two field goals led to a 7-6 win for the Susquehanna University Football team in the season opener and a battle for the Stagg Hat Trophy Saturday afternoon on Amos Alonzo Stagg Field in Selinsgrove.
The Susquehanna (1-0) defense allowed just nine first downs in the game and just two third down conversions in the second half. The effort gave the River Hawks a victory despite the offense managing just one score on the day.
"I'm very proud of the effort of the defense today," said Head Coach Tom Perkovich after the victory. "The special teams play was very good as well. I am proud of the way we persevered through the day and rebounded from mistakes and finished the game. We have been stressing the importance of finishing games strong for the past two years and it was very evident today that the team played their hearts out right through the final seconds."
The only Lycoming (0-1) points came in the opening quarter as kicker Jaime Fisher connected on a pair of field goals.
The field goals were a direct result of the Susquehanna defense tightening up in the red zone and not allowing the Warriors to get into the end zone.
On the opening drive of the game, Lycoming marched down the field thanks in part to a pair of 28-yar gains. Both of the big gains came on third down plays with the second bringing the ball down to the Susquehanna three-yard line.
After a no-gain on the first plat of the first-and-goal situation, the Warriors had a run for two yards before Kyle Micik and Kashief combined to stop the run at the one-yard line.
Cole Dixon came up with a tackle behind the line of scrimmage on the third down play forcing Lycoming to kick the field goal for a 3-0 lead.
After a Susquehanna interception – the first in 99 pass attempts for senior quarterback Nick Crusco, the Warriors moved the ball into the red zone again but were stopped at the 17-yard line and had to settle for another field goal and a 6-0 lead.
Susquehanna scored on the next drive that started near the end of the first quarter and carried over to the second period.
The key play in the drive was a fake punt as Cameron Ott took the short snap and rumbled 59 yards which led to a Crusco to Diamente Holloway six-yard TD pass into the corner of the endzone. Freshman Connor Lustenberger converted the extra point kick to give the River Hawks a 7-6 lead.
From there, the Susquehanna defense took control of the game and held the lead for the River Hawks.
The Susquehanna offense was able to move the ball as Crusco led an attack that gained 425 yards of total offense including 281 rushing yards. The team held possession for 36 minutes including nearly 10 minutes per quarter for the final three quarters of the game.
Ott was the workhorse on offense gaining 129 yards on 14 carries which included the 59-yard fake punt run while Luke Robinson amassed 71 yards on eight carries. Tommy Bluj caught seven passes for 60 yards and Crusco was 25-for-40 for 144 yards passing.
Defensively, Craig Roumes led the River Hawks with nine tackles while Tucker Garner and Connor Thompson each had six stops including a shared sack between them. Garner also had a fumble recovery on the final play of the game and Thompson was credited with a pair of quarterback hurries. Rickey Reyes had five tackles and a pair of pass breakups and senior safety Ryan Ganard had four tackles and an interception.
Susquehanna will play its next two games on the road starting with a trip to Baltimore, Maryland to face Johns Hopkins to open the Centennial Conference portion of the schedule.