BETHLEHEM, Pa. – For the second week in a row, the Ursinus College football team was playing in a homecoming game, and for the second week in a row, the Bears were the ones celebrating at the end of the day.
Continuing the trend on repeating last week's events, Ursinus capped off a win with a late interception.
Except this week, the pick was returned to the end zone to finish a 35-17 win at Moravian.
With the Greyhounds driving down the field looking to overcome a two-possession deficit, sophomore Jacob McCain stepped in front of a pass at the Bears' 15-yard line and returned it down the sideline and into pay dirt. It was the first interception in the defensive back's career, and his first touchdown to boot. He also recorded three tackles in the win.
The pick-six may have been the most exhilarating play of the day for the Bears, as it took the wind out of any comeback attempt that Moravian had planned, but Ursinus put itself in a favorable position from the very first drive of the game.
The Bears would kick off the game with an eight-play, 70-yard drive that ended in a touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Thomas Garlick to junior receiver Jacob Clifford. Clifford lined up on the left side and ran his post pattern, breaking just as he crossed the goal line and Garlick threaded the ball through the defense to his wide-open target. Clifford's score was the second in the last three weeks, as he and Garlick have combined for eight completions, 137 yards and two touchdowns in that span.
Following the offensive clinic, it was the defense's turn to show off what they could do, and it didn't disappoint. Moravian running back Eli Redmond took four handoffs in a row to start the ensuing drive, totaling 40 yards. The Greyhounds gave their back a rest on the fifth play, as quarterback Kordell Threadford decided to run it himself. The Bears defense swarmed the senior, stripping the ball loose, allowing senior defensive back – and co-captain – Heath Hidlay to fall on the ball at the Ursinus 39.
With just five plays removed from scoring their first touchdown, the Bears picked up right where they left off, working their way down the field and getting into the end zone again, this time on a 7-yard run by Garlick. The QB sold a play-action fake and rolled to his right, looking for a receiver. He elected to tuck it and run, taking on a Moravian defender just short of the goal line, spinning and reaching the ball across the plane for the score – his second rushing touchdown of the year. Garlick's arm was a key part of the scoring drive, as it led to a pair of third-down conversions on passes to junior running back Asa Manley – a 14-yarder – and senior receiver Shawn Hackett – a nine-yard gain.
The Bears defense stood strong the rest of the way through the first half, punts on three Greyhounds' possessions and just a field goal to close out the half with a 14-10 lead.
Sophomore Mitchell Bradford kicked off the third quarter with a bang, intercepting a pass that was destined for the Ursinus end zone, ending another Greyhounds' threat. Bradford has had a nose for the football so far this year, picking off his second pass of the season and fourth of his career.
The offense, led by a pair of running backs, made the most of the turnover, marching 80 yards down the field for another score, extending the lead to 21-10. Manley got into the end zone on a 15-yard run after Ragland set up the Bears with a runs of 12 and 14 yards each just before the touchdown. Manley's touchdown was his second in as many games, as he scored against Juniata last week.
With 4:05 left in the game, Gardner added a little cushion with a 15-yard touchdown run, pushing the lead to 28-10 before McCain's pick-six. The bell cow back finished up the game with 14 carries for 91 yards and the score, while Ragland and Manley each added 54 and 27 yards, respectively.
Garlick's efforts were felt both through the air and on the ground, as he finished 12-of-21 passing for 111 yards and a score. He also carried the rock 13 times for 68 yards and a touchdown.
It's the fourth week in a row the Bears have scored exactly 35 points, and for the first time since the 2014 season; Ursinus has gotten off to a 4-0 start to the year. The Bears finished 7-3 that year.
They'll look to carry the momentum into a matchup with #8 Johns Hopkins, which is also riding a 4-0 start after topping Dickinson 41-10 on Saturday. The Blue Jays have won the Centennial Conference every year since 2011. They won a share of the conference title in 2010 after winning it outright in 2009. Ursinus hasn't topped Johns Hopkins since the 2010 season.
Kickoff at Patterson Field is set for Saturday at 1 p.m.