Connor Thompson made 10 tackles, including eight solo stops and forced one of the five fumbles on the day as the Susquehanna University Football team scored a dominating defensive victory with a 28-9 win over Albright College in one of the two Centennial-MAC Bowl Series games Saturday afternoon at Shirk Stadium in Reading.
The two teams played exchanged touchdowns in the first half with Cameron Ott scoring on a seven-yard run for Susquehanna (8-3) and Albright (8-3) adding a TD pass with less than a minute left in the first half.
The River Hawks defense dominated the entire second half of action as Albright was limited to just five second half drives with three ending with fumbles, one ending with an interception and the other moving just seven yards on a three-and-out.
On the first drive of the second half, Susquehanna marched 75 yards on five plays including a 46-yard pass from Nick Crusco to Mikah Christian. The very next play was a 25-yard pass play to Tommy Bluj that moved the ball inside the 10-yard line and Crusco finished the drive with a 4-yard scoring run.
On the ensuing drive, Albright accounted for two of its three second half first downs but on the sixth play of the drive, Thompson forced a fumble that was recovered by Ryan Ganard just outside the Susquehanna end zone. The Lions did manage a safety on the first play of the drive to trim the lead to 13-9.
After the free kick, the Susquehanna defense forced a three-and-out to give the ball back to the offense.
Crusco and Ott engineered a 13-play, 70-yard drive that consumed nearly seven minutes of time off the clock and finished with a three-yard Ott scoring run. Mitch Carsley completed a pass to Crusco for the two-point conversion to give Susquehanna a 21-9 lead.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Ganard forced another turnover with his team-leading fourth interception of the year.
The following Susquehanna drive nearly stalled but a pooch punt by Crusco was fumbled by the deep back and Carsley recovered the ball setting up a short scoring drive for the River Hawks as Crusco pushed in a two-yard run TD run for a 28-9 lead.
Albright took over and put together a short drive that including the only other first down of the half for the Lions but after a 51-yard pass play, the receiver fumbled the ball and Jason Brougham recovered to stop another Albright drive.
After a short Susquehanna drive, the Lions took over near midfield but still could not move the ball.
An incomplete pass started the drive followed by a Ganard sack on a blitz setting up a third-and-long situation. On the next play, Jeremy Kozich strip sacked the quarterback and Tucker Garner recovered the ball setting up the final drive as Crusco engineered a final drive that consumed the remaining five minutes of the game.
Crusco finished the day 16-for-24 for 217 yards giving him a school-record 8,318 career passing yards. His 2,501 yards for the season is second on the all-time season record list. Crusco finishes his career with school records for career pass attempts, completions and yards as well as total offense yards.
Ott finished with 86 yards and two touchdowns as he eclipsed the 1,000 yard rushing total for the season to become the eighth 1,000-yard rusher in school history.
The River Hawks finish the season with eight wins for the first time since 2009 when Susquehanna was also 8-3 with a Liberty League Championship and a trip to the NCAA Tournament.