ALLENTOWN, PA. --- Moravian College freshman quarterback Doug Erney threw a pair of second half touchdown passes but it wasn't enough to lead the Greyhounds back from a 16-point halftime deficit as the Hounds ended their 2017 season with a 29-14 loss to rival Muhlenberg College Saturday afternoon in Centennial Conference action.
"Special teams played a big part of the game today," stated Head Coach Jeff Pukszyn. "We needed to get three a couple of times but had a bad bounce on a snap and some inside pressure, something we haven't seen much this season, that ended up blocking another attempt. The fake punt was something that we've done to other team's this year, we just missed a tackle. Those hurt us but we rebounded, and I think we played one of our best, if not our best game of the season. I'm proud of these guys for always bouncing back., and they know what the meaning of grit is."
After the contest, junior defensive back Nick Zambelli was voted as Moravian's Most Valuable Player in the game after making a career-high 13 tackles including ten solo stops to go along with an interception early in the second half.
"Hearing Nick's stats today when he was announced as our MVP, and what we ask of our safeties to do, I was happy for him," Pukszyn commented. "He is the guy back there as I say the straw that stirs the drink because he makes all of the checks. He does everything to make sure we're set on the field. He is a great leader and has been a captain this year. I think the best thing is that we get one more year with Nick, and he is going to be a tremendous role model for the players in our program."
Erney was 18-for-29 in the game for 254 yards with the two touchdown passes and one interception, and Erney also ran for 33 yards on 14 attempts as he helped Moravian pick up 336 yards of offense on 60 plays. Erney finished the season 146-of-246 for 1,886 yards, the ninth-best season in school history and top season by a freshman, and he had 15 touchdowns and five interceptions.
Senior wide receiver Aaron Hudson caught a team-high five passes for 75 yards and a touchdown to complete his career with 123 receptions, fifth all-time at Moravian, 1,531 receiving yards which is tenth in school history and 11 touchdowns. Sophomore wide receiver Alex Pierce caught four passes for 69 yards and a touchdown while senior tight end Aaron Brown also had four receptions for 33 yards.
Freshman wide receiver Ricky Tate added three catches for 69 yards while junior running back Eli Redmond added two receptions for eight yards and ran for a team-high 43 yards on ten attempts. Redmond is 12th in school history with 1,693 rushing yards with one season remaining. Junior running back Frank Dangello had 13 yards on four carries while senior fullback Jorden Stout return after missing three games with an injury to career the ball twice.
Zambelli's interception, which he returned three yards, was one of seven passes defended by the Greyhounds. Freshman defensive back Jackson Buskirk had nine tackles and three pass break-ups including one on fourth down to go with one punt return for six yards. Freshman defensive lineman Shane Mastro added eight tackles with two for loss and a sack while freshman linebacker Tanner Barr had seven tackles with half a tackle for loss and two kickoff returns for 31 yards.
Senior defensive back Justice Anderson and junior linebacker Steve Ewald each made six tackles with Anderson adding a tackle for loss, a pass break-up and three kickoff returns for 50 yards. Senior defensive lineman Vinny Caporrino had five tackles with a half a stop flor loss and a quarterback hurry while junior linebacker Dallas Owen added four tackles and one kickoff return for nine yards. Sophomore defensive back Tim Valentine had Moravian's other pass break-up.
The Greyhounds had 16 players punt on the squad's grey uniform for the last time one Saturday.
"This year wasn't what we planned on or what we wanted, but the seniors did a great job leading every single day this year and they taught the rest of the team the meaning of the word perseverance. They overcame a lot, and it might not show in the win-loss column but it shows a lot when you talk about 18 injuries forcing guys to step up and do a lot of different things. I'm proud of these seniors, and I just got done telling them that they are going to be successful in life. While they weren't successful in the win-loss column this year, they were successful this fall because of what they did day in and day out for our program," Pukszyn finished.
The Mules received the opening kickoff and put together an 18-play, 72-yard drive that took nearly seven minutes and ended with a field goal after a tackle for loss by Mastro inside the 10-yard line.
Moravian picked up a first down on its initial possession on a 45-yard pass from Erney to Tate on third down; however, a bad snap that ended up bouncing around on the turf kept the Greyhounds from attempting what would have been a 38-yard field goal attempt.
The Greyhounds defense would force Muhlenberg to turn the ball over on downs but the Blue and Grey punted after three plays. After a long punt return, the Mules scored three plays into the second quarter to extend their lead to 10-0.
Moravian would punt again and with Muhlenberg in Greyhound territory, Buskirk would jump and get a hand on a fourth down pass attempt to knock the ball away and give the Hounds possession. Erney hit Brown with a short completion for a first down and Redmond ran for back-to-back first downs as Moravian moved into the red zone. However, the drive stalled after a first down on a run by Dangello. Junior Jon Miller came on to attempt a 25-yard field goal but it was blocked by the Mules.
The Hounds defense would hold after three plays but a fake punt attempt would end up as a first down for Muhlenberg, and the Mules drove down to score three plays later and extend the lead to 16-0 after the PAT bounced off of the right upright.
Erney fumbled on the first play of the second half but the Greyhounds fell on the ball. However, Erney was intercepted on the next play.
Moravian needed just one play to get the ball back as Zambelli stepped in front of a pass at the one-yard line for his third interception of the season and the seventh of his career. The Hounds drove 72 yards but a shot pass was incomplete on fourth down to turn the ball over to the Mules at the Muhlenberg 24-yard line.
The Greyhounds forced a punt after three plays and took over at their own 34-yard line. After a first down by penalty moved the ball past midfield, Erney connected on a 41-yard touchdown pass to Pierce. Miller's PAT cut the deficit to 16-7 with 5:44 left in the third quarter.
Each team punted on its next possession before the Mules extended the lead to 22-7 with 11:57 remaining in the contest.
Moravian answered right back with Anderson returning the kickoff 37 yards to set the offense up on the Muhlenberg side of midfield. Three plays later, Erney connected with Hudson on a 28-yard catch and run down the far sideline for the touchdown. Miller's extra-point pulled the Hounds within 22-14 with 10:39 still to play.
Once again, the Mules answered with a 13-play drive and another touchdown to extend the lead to 29-14 with 3:58 to play.
The Hounds' ensuing drive would get to the Muhlenberg 31-yard line before stalling. The Mules were forced to punt before Erney connect with Tate for 11 yards on the final play of the afternoon.