WESTMINSTER, Md. – The Ursinus College football team traveled to Maryland on Saturday to take on McDaniel in Centennial Conference action. The Green Terror kicked a field goal as time expired to defeat the Bears 30-27.
Entering the day, Ursinus (0-4, 0-3) had won 10 straight games in its series versus McDaniel (1-3, 1-2). In fact, McDaniel had lost its prior 22 games and 21 consecutive games against a conference rival. This was just the second time in the last decade of this matchup that a game ended in single-digits, the last coming during the 2011 campaign.
Linebacker Timothy Rafter needed just five tackles in the game to become the 12th player in school history to reach 200 for his career. The senior finished with seven, forcing a fumble and recording a sack for an eight yard loss.
Senior captain Salvatore Bello made the start at quarterback for injured freshman Thomas Garlick. Last season, Bello threw for a school-record 465 yards and four touchdowns in a 33-17 victory over McDaniel. He fared well against the Green Terror on Saturday, completing 23 of 36 passes for 235 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Bello added 32 yards on five rushes. Shawn Hackett led all Bears receivers with seven catches and 92 yards.
Both defenses were on display in the first quarter, each pitching a shutout through the first 15 minutes of play on Saturday. Ursinus was able to limit the Green Terror to just seven offensive plays in the first quarter. The Bears caused a fumble on the first possession of the game and forced McDaniel to punt the next two times it touched the ball.
The Green Terror was able to break through in the second, scoring the first points of the game on a 1-yard run on 4th and goal. The Bears marched down to the McDaniel three-yard line, but were pushed back five yards after a false start. Two incompletions set up an Ursinus field goal, but kicker Nicholas Ford failed to put the Bears on the board with his first of two misses in the game. McDaniel would answer with a make of their own for a 10-0 lead.
The Bears would gain momentum on the very next play as junior Jonathan Gerhartz returned the ensuing kickoff 94 yards to the house for an Ursinus six. It was Ursinus' first kickoff return for a touchdown since Al Desiderio took one back against McDaniel in 2009. Unfortunately, the defense could not keep McDaniel off of the field and the Green Terror retaliated with a 57 yard drive capped off by a touchdown to put themselves ahead by 10 just before the end of the half.
With one minute and 16 seconds left in the half, Bello drove the Bears 75 yards and found Carmen Fortino in the end zone for a score to pull within three points. Bello used his arm and legs to get the Bears down the field, passing for 53 yards and adding 22 on the ground during the drive. Ursinus did a great job of getting out of bounds and conserving the play clock to give itself enough time to put points on the board and get back into the game.
The Bears received the ball to start the second half and tied the game on a career-long 44-yard field goal from Ford. The Ursinus defense held up its end, forcing consecutive punts on McDaniel's next two possessions, but the offense was unable to take the lead. The Red and Gold had an opportunity to take a three-point lead, but Ford hooked a 46-yard attempt just left of the post. It would not be their last attempt to put the Green Terror away.
Sophomore linebacker Brian Meilinger put the Bears in a position to take the lead, picking off McDaniel quarterback Will Koester pass and returning it 17 yards to the McDaniel 46. On the ensuing drive, Bello connected with freshman running back Stacey Gardner for a 19-yard touchdown and a seven-point advantage.
After both teams traded field goals, the Bears remained on top 27-20 in the closing minutes of regulation. Despite the lead, the defense could not keep the Green Terror off of the field. McDaniel drove 67 yards to tie the game. Ursinus got the ball back with 55 seconds left on the clock and seemed poised to close out the game like they had the first half, with a drive and a score.
On the third play of the drive Bello's pass was picked off by a McDaniel defender, giving the Green Terror the ball at the Ursinus 39-yard line with 34 seconds left in regulation. McDaniel threw three incompletions, but converted on 4th and 12 to keep the drive alive and moments later kicked the game-winning field goal as time expired.
Senior Corey Kelly carried 10 times for 56 yards, becoming just the ninth player in program history to reach 1,500 rushing yards. Kelly needs just 134 more yards to crack the school's all-time top five.
The Bears return home on Saturday, October 1st to take on Moravian in Centennial Conference play. Kick-off is set for 1:00 P.M.