Seniors Nick Crusco and Tommy Bluj connected on an 8-yard TD pass early in the fourth quarter to break a 21-21 tie and the Susquehanna University Football team scored a 28-21 win over Juniata College in the regular season finale Saturday afternoon in Huntingdon.
The River Hawks (7-3 overall, 6-3 Centennial) clinched a spot as one of the teams to represent the Centennial Conference in the Centennial-MAC Bowl series that will be played Nov. 18. Susquehanna finishes in third place in the final Centennial standings. The opponent and location of the bowl game will be announced Sunday night after the selection of the teams for the NCAA Tournament have been made official.
Against Juniata (3-7, 2-7), Cameron Ott finished with 99 yards on 29 carries and Terrell Brown hauled in five passes for 102 yards. Crusco was 19-for-32 for 228 yards and three touchdowns. Cole Dixon led the defense with 11 tackles, a sack and two tackles for loss while Conner Thompson added 10 tackles with a half sack and two tackles for loss.
In the fourth quarter, the Susquehanna defense limited Juniata to two drives and both were three-and-out drives while the offense controlled the ball and consumed a majority of the clock.
Susquehanna scored early in the game on the first drive of the day as Ott had a pair of short runs followed by a four-yard pass completion for a first down to Mitch Carsley and the very next play was a 64-yard TD pass from Crusco to Brown and the River Hawks had a 7-0 lead two minutes into the game.
Juniata answered with a 10-play drive that ended with an unusual score. The Eagles rushed the ball to the three yard line before fumbling the ball after a hit by Tucker Garner. Juniata recovered the ball in the end zone to tie the game at 7-7.
On the ensuing drive, Crusco engineered a 13-play drive that he capped with a two-yard scoring run to regain the lead. Brown had the key play in the drive with a six-yard reception on a third-and-five situation to keep the drive alive. Crusco also completed passes to Carsley for 12 yards and Ott for 11 yards on the drive.
In the second quarter, Susquehanna extended the lead to 21-7 with another long drive as Crusco and the offense matched 56 yards in 14 plays eating nearly half of the time in the quarter. The drive included consecutive passes to Carsley (17 yards) and Bluj (9 yards) early in the series. Ott had a pair of runs for a total of 14 yards near the end of the drive and capped the scoring drive with a three-yard touchdown reception.
The third quarter was all Juniata as the Eagles took advantage of good field position on a pair of short punts to score twice and tie the score at 21-21 before the pass from Crusco to Bluj in the final quarter that ended up being the difference in the game.
With the win, the River Hawks retained possession of the Goal Post Trophy and the team won seven games in a season for the first time since 2009 when Susquehanna won the Liberty League title.