Courtesy of Bucknell Athletics
- Lafayette scored four touchdowns on plays of longer than 30 yards and Bucknell committed four turnovers as the Leopards defeated the Bison 33-22 in football action Saturday afternoon on Homecoming at Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium. Bucknell had two 100-yard receivers in the contest as Frank DeNick (105) and Victor Walker (102) each crossed the century mark.
Lafayette (2-6, 1-1 Patriot League) starting quarterback Ryan O’Neil completed 5 of 11 passes for 116 yards and one touchdown and reserve Marc Quilling was 13 of 20 for 213 yards and three touchdowns as the Leopards totaled 329 yards through the air. Overall, Lafayette registered 484 total yards, the most by a Bison opponent this season.
On the other hand, Bucknell’s (1-7, 1-2 PL) offense totaled 305 yards, it third-highest figure of the season. Freshman quarterback Brandon Wesley was 11 of 21 for 196 yards and one touchdown, while Tyler Smith rushed 16 times for 67 yards and a score. He also found Walker for a 33-yard touchdown on a second-half halfback option pass.
Both teams were plagued by turnovers as each squad lost three fumbles and Wesley threw one interception. Bucknell has now turned the ball over seven times in its last two outings after just five miscues over the season’s first six games.
Six of the first seven scores in the game were longer than 30 yards, with the only exception being a safety after a Michael Schmidlein sack of Brandon Wesley on the second play of Bucknell’s second drive.
The Leopards got the big plays started on their first drive as O’Neil found Patrick Mputu on a screen pass on the second play of the game. Mputu proceeded to streak down the field and score on the 75-yard play, putting Lafayette up 7-0.
Schmidlein’s safety made it 9-0 midway through the first quarter.
Lafayette’s ensuing drive, which ended with a failed 4th-and-10 attempt from the Bucknell 31, put the total yards tally at 120-(-12) in favor of the Leopards.
Then the fumbles started as four consecutive drives ended in miscues.
The Bison offense finally got going on its next attempt, marching 69 yards on 12 plays. On 3rd-and-goal from the two-yard line, Wesley tried to dash for the left pylon, but Gregory Mandile reached in from behind and popped the ball out of Wesley’s hands and into the end zone and out of bounds for a touchback.
Lafayette had that momentum for a short time as on the first play of the next drive Mputu fumbled, giving the ball back to the Bison inside the 30-yard line.
The fumbles continued as two plays later Smith lost the ball, giving possession back to Lafayette. In all, there were three fumbles in a span of four plays.
The Leopards then covered 66 yards on nine plays before O’Neil fumbled, giving the ball back to the Bison.
Bucknell, which took over at its own 17-yard line, then registered its first big play of the day as Wesley was flushed out of the pocket and was forced to scramble. After darting away from a couple defenders he found wide open DeNick along the left sideline about 15 yards downfield. DeNick took off and outran all pursuing defenders and ended up registering a career-long 79-yard touchdown to make the score 9-7. It marked the longest pass play for the Bison since an 82-yard Marcello Trigg-to-A.J. Kizekai play in 2007 at Fordham.
Lafayette registered its final touchdown of the first half as Quilling found Kyle Hayes for a 35-yard touchdown with 3:50 remaining on the clock. Hayes, who had six catches for a team-high 97 yards and two scores, was wide open over the middle of the field and was able to jog into the end zone.
Bucknell was a solid 3-for-7 on third downs in the first half and was receiving the kickoff to start the second half. The Bison put together a 10-play, 66-yard drive that included a 23-yard completion to Walker and a 23-yard rush by Smith. However, the drive ended with a missed 26-yard field goal by freshman Alex Eckard, shifting momentum to the Leopards, who proceeded to score two touchdowns in a span of 91 seconds.
Quilling found Alan Elder for 29 yards and Mitchell Bennett on a 30-yard touchdown pass on back-to-back plays for the first score. Then, Robert Owoyele fumbled the ensuing kickoff, giving the Leopards the ball at the Bucknell 33-yard line. Three plays later Quilling found Hayes for a 31-yard score, extending the lead to a game-high 30-7.
Later in the third quarter Bucknell capitalized on another fumble as Greg Stripe tried to field a punt, but dropped it. Long-snapper Jeff Goyette picked it up and on the very first play Smith found Walker from 33 yards out to make the score 30-14. It was the first pass attempt of Smith’s career and it was the team-high second receiving touchdown this year for Walker.
Davis Rodriguez tacked on a field goal for Lafayette in the fourth quarter and Smith followed with a 1-yard TD run later for the Bison. Wesley converted the two-point attempt with a quarterback draw, capping the scoring at 33-22.
Travis Nissley posted a game-high 11 tackles for the Bison defense, while Sean Rafferty and Robert De La Rosa both registered sacks.
Lafayette’s defense was led by Ben Eaton and Schmidlein, who both totaled eight tackles. The Leopards also accumulated six sacks and 11 tackles for loss.
DeNick and Walker became the first pair of Bison teammates to post 100-yard receiving days in the same game since Mike Guerrini (103) and Scott Lillis (104) accomplished the feat against Lehigh in 1987.
At halftime of Saturday’s contest, the Bucknell Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2010 and the 1960 Lambert Cup-winning football team were honored.
Bucknell will continue its three-game homestand next Saturday, Nov.6, when it hosts Fordham. Kickoff for the contest is 1 p.m. at Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium.