Story and photo courtesy of Mercyhurst Athletics
CHEYNEY, Pa. – The Mercyhurst University football team extended its winning streak to four straight games on Saturday afternoon, using a big second half to leave eastern Pennsylvania with a 36-10 victory over Cheyney at O'Shields-Stevenson Stadium. The win moved the Lakers to 4-1 overall while Cheyney fell to 1-4 on the season.
It was a tale of two different halves on Saturday. Despite leading 13-10 at halftime, Mercyhurst was outgained 180-159 in the opening thirty minutes. However, the Lakers made adjustments at halftime and outscored Cheyney 23-0 in the second half, limiting the Wolves to just 60 yards of total offense. Meanwhile, the Lakers had 243 yards of offense in the second half.
Despite falling short of a school-record fourth straight 150-yard game on the ground, redshirt freshman Brandon Brown-Dukes led the Lakers with 99 yards and a career-high tying three touchdowns in the victory. Brown-Dukes also had three touchdowns as part of his 213-yard effort against Millersville on September 8. The Orlando, Florida native has now rushed for 629 yards and nine touchdowns over his last four games.
Mercyhurst, as a team, rushed for 221 yards, its lowest output since rushing for just 119 against Notre Dame College in the season opener.
After a fumble by Cheyney's Marcus Jones on the Wolves' opening possession, Mercyhurst drove 51 yards in five plays capped off by a Brown-Dukes three-yard touchdown run with 10:55 left in the first quarter. However, junior placekicker Steven Wakefield missed the extra point, so the Lakers had a 6-0 lead.
Cheyney and its triple-option would then go to work on its next drive, going 75 yards on nine plays. Justin Watkins finished off the drive with a six-yard touchdown and, after Jewel Jones added the extra point, Cheyney led 7-6 with 5:17 left in the opening quarter. It marked the first time since the season opener at Notre Dame College that Mercyhurst trailed in a contest.
However, Mercyhurst would not trail for long. After a punt by Cheyney's Tyler Wilkinson was downed at the Mercyhurst two-yard line in the closing seconds of the first quarter, the Lakers would put together a 13-play, 98-yard drive in the span of just under seven minutes to regain the lead. Brown-Dukes would plow his way into the endzone from three yards out to cap off the drive. Wakefield added the extra point for a 13-7 Laker advantage.
But, Cheyney would come back with a 14-play drive of its own, taking eight minutes off the clock, and ending with a 38-yard field goal by Wilkinson with 58 seconds left in the first half, cutting the Mercyhurst lead to 13-10. The Lakers had an opportunity to tack on points at the end of the half after an excellent kickoff return by senior Paris Bruner. But, time ran out, and Mercyhurst went to the locker room with a three-point lead.
The second half was a completely different story. Brown-Dukes added to the Mercyhurst lead, picking up his third touchdown of the afternoon on a five-yard run through the middle of the Cheyney defensive line with 8:43 left in the third quarter. Wakefield would add the extra point for a 20-10 Mercyhurst advantage.
Then, after Mercyhurst forced a three-and-out from the Cheyney offense, Wlkinson came in to punt for the Wolves. Redshirt freshman T.J. Latimer found an opening and blocked the punt by Wilkinson and the ball careened into the Wolves' endzone. Cheyney was able to recover the football in the endzone, but when Latimer made the tackle, Mercyhurst was awarded a safety – the team's first since August 27, 2005 against Gannon.
After the free kick, which was brought out to the Laker 46 yard line by Bruner, Mercyhurst struck again, this time taking just three plays in 1:27. Redshirt junior quarterback Anthony Vendemia found redshirt freshman Devyn Woods in the back corner of the endzone from 23 yards out, and, after Wakefield added the extra point, Mercyhurst led 29-10 – scoring 16 points in the span of 3:56.
Junior Jeff Groene would add his first touchdown reception of the season, a 10-yard catch-and-run with 11:53 left in the fourth quarter for the final score of the afternoon.
Brown-Dukes led the Lakers with 99 yards rushing, carrying the ball 21 times. Junior Allen Jones II carried just seven times but finished with 62 yards on the ground. Freshman Milton Revell, who played most of the fourth quarter, had 48 yards on seven carries. Meanwhile, Vendemia finished 9-of-12 passing for 181 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. Woods was his favorite target, catching four passes for 93 yards.
Cheyney's Marcus Jones led all rushers with 110 yards on 18 carries. Wolves' quarterback Blaze Wasserleben had 53 yards on 15 carries. Mercyhurst, which entered the game with the PSAC's best passing defense, allowing just over 140 yards per game, limited Wasserleben to just 4-of-12 passing for 39 yards on the afternoon.
Mercyhurst improved to 3-0 lifetime against Cheyney and has now outscored the Wolves 116-20 in those three contests.
The Lakers will return home, and will return to PSAC West action, next Saturday against the Bald Eagles of Lock Haven University. Mercyhurst is 4-0 lifetime against Lock Haven and has outscored the Bald Eagles 151-24 in those matchups. Kickoff is scheduled for 12:00 p.m. from Tullio Field.