WILKES-BARRE, Pa. --- Freshman quarterback Doug Erney ran for 131 yards and a pair of touchdowns and completed 16-of-29 passes for 212 yards in his first collegiate start for the Moravian College football team but it wasn't enough as host King's College kicked the winning field goal with 1:37 to play for a 30-27 win in the 2017 opener for both teams Thursday evening.
The Greyhounds, now 0-1 on the season, were playing their second Thursday night season opener in school history. Moravian posted a 34-27 victory at Susquehanna University on August 30, 2007 in a game that saw kickoff delayed an hour and 40 minutes by lightning.
"We're a young team that made a number of correctable mistakes but too many to win a football game," stated Head Coach Jeff Pukszyn on the field after the game. "It was a combination of their experience and our youthfulness. They won the turnover battle, and we had opportunities to potentially capitalize on mistakes aKing's made but we couldn't grab the ball when we had it in our hands on defense or it was loose in the air. We shot ourselves in the foot way to many times, and to be this youthful, you can't do that. King's is a vetern group and their quarterback showed a lot of poise."
The Monarchs received the opening kickoff and drove inside the Moravian 30-yard line before the Greyhounds' defense forced an incomplete pass on fourth down to give the Hounds' offense its first touch of the year.
King's used a short field after the punt with senior quarterback Zach Whitehead running in a two-yard touchdown on a third down play to give the Monarchs a 7-0 lead with 5:47 left in the first quarter.
Erney connected on a 29-yard pass to senior wide receiver Aaron Hudson for Moravian's initial first down of the season. The Greyhounds added Redmond added a pair of rushing first downs to get Moravian inside the 10-yard line before junior Kenny Kane came on to kick a 23-yard field goal as the Blue and Grey cut the Monarchs lead to 7-3 just 44 seconds into the second quarter. Hudson finished the evening with three receptions for 48 yards.
King's would be forced into a punt on its next possession after moving the ball past midfield.
Erney found sophomore wide receiver Alex Pierce with a 30-yard pass to get the Hounds to midfield. Freshman wide receiver/punter Nick Petros ran a fake punt for 18 yards to keep the drive alive down to the King's 30-yard line. Erney added a rushing touchdown to put Moravian into the red zone, and Erney found senior tight end Aaron Brown with a 14-yard reception to move inside the 10-yard line. The Greyhounds would bring Kane on to kick a 22-yard field goal to finish off the 15-play, 75-yard drive that took 7:31 off the clock to cut the King's lead to 7-6 with 5:14 left in the second quarter. Brown pulled in a pair of receptions for 40 yards.
The Monarchs would run a reverse on the ensuing kickoff with senior defensive back Justice Anderson to save a touchdown but King's would begin its offensive set in the red zone. Moravian's defense would hold and force a turnover on downs at the six-yard line.
Erney found Redmond with a 12-yard pass for a first down; however, the Greyhounds would punt with one minute left in the first half. Redmond finished his first game since the 2015 season with six receptions for 34 yards, and he carried the ball 16 times.
Whitehead scored on a six-yard run with 17 seconds left in the opening half to give the Monarchs a 14-6 lead heading into the locker room.
Anderson started the second half with a 31-yard kickoff return to set the Moravian offense up at its own 41-yard line. After a first down by penalty, Erney found Hudson with a 15-yard completion before Erney took off on a quarterback draw and rumbled 34 yards into the end zone, diving for the right pylon. Erney then connected on a two-point conversion pass to Brown in the left front corner of the end zone as the Greyhounds tied the game at 14-14 with 12:46 left in the third quarter.
"When it comes to Doug and being a dual threat guy, he did a good job in his first start and his first meaningful touches of a football in nearly two years," Pukszyn said of his starting quarterback who earned the job after a lengthy battle during preseason camp. "Like any player out on the field, we'll go in and watch the film and find some mistakes but they all are correctable. He was able to run and scramble for some yards but our new offensive coordinator John Harrison also put in some designed quarterback runs that fits into what Doug and a couple of our quarterbacks can do. Hopefully he can take the next step after watching some film and getting another week of practice in."
The Hounds defense forced King's into a three-and-punt possession to get the ball right back to the Moravian offense. However, the Blue and Grey would also punt after three plays.
The Monarchs moved back ahead on a 36-yard field goal by senior Mike Tumminello as King's took a 17-14 lead with 7:50 in the third quarter.
On the Greyhounds' second play after the kickoff, Erney raced 58 yards up the middle on another quarterback draw for a touchdown. Kane's extra-point attempt was blocked as Moravian took its first lead of the game at 20-17 with 7:26 left in the third.
The Monarchs would answer with Whitehead running in his third touchdown of the game on a six-yard quarterback draw, and the extra-point gave King's a 24-20 lead with 1:47 to play in the third quarter.
Anderson would set the Moravian offense up near midfield with a 34-yard kickoff return. Erney would find Redmond with a 16-yard completion on a long third down to give the Greyhounds a first down at the King's 33-yard line as the third quarter ended. Erney found Petros with a 30-yard pass on another long third down to put the Hounds inside the 10-yard line. However a penalty would force the Greyhounds to attempt a 28-yard field goal and the kick by junior Jon Miller was wide to the left.
Moravian's defense would force King's into a punt from midfield.
Erney found Brown with a 26-yard completion on a third-and-10 as the Blue & Grey moved past midfield. However, Erney was intercepted two plays later as the Monarchs took possession with 8:51 to play. King's would settle for a 27-yard field goal by Tumminello to extend its lead to 27-20 with 6:29 remaining on the clock.
The Blue and Grey started from midfield and Erney ran 18 yards for a first down. Two plays later, Erney found Petros in the left side of the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown pass. Miller split the uprights with the extra-point to knot the score at 27-27 with 5:32 left on the clock. Petros caught two passes for 56 yards.
King's moved back ahead on a 38-yard field goal by Tumminello that dropped just over the cross bar with 1:37 remaining as the Monarchs took a 30-27 lead.
The Monarchs defense came up with a pair of sacks to force Moravian to turn the ball over on downs with just 51 seconds remaining.
Freshman defensive back Jackson Buskirk led the Moravian defense with 12 tackles and a pass break-up while junior linebacker Steve Ewald added 11 tackles including a half a tackle for loss. Junior linebacker Dallas Owen made nine tackles and a pair of kickoff returns for 25 yards while Anderson had eight tackles and a pass break-up in his first game on defense after being a wide receiver the last three seasons to go with two kickoff returns for 65 yards. Junior defensive lineman Nick Tone also added eight tackles with one sack.
"I think Jackson is one of our better athletes on this team and possibly in the Centennial Conference when it is all said and done," Pukszyn noted. "He's an active player and around the football a lot. He made some mistakes tonight but again they are all correctable. He is probably more upset about those mistakes than anyone. We're glad that he decided to come to Moravian and expect a lot of great things out of him over the next four years."
Moravian ran 65 plays for 373 yards and controlled the clock for 30:52 while King's ran 80 plays for 431 yards.
The Greyhounds are scheduled to open their 2017 home season as well as the Centennial Conference campaign on Saturday, September 9 when the squad hosts McDaniel College at Rocco Calvo Field with kickoff slated for 1:00 p.m.