COLLEGEVILLE, Pa. – The Ursinus College football team gave visiting Moravian everything it could handle in a thrilling Centennial Conference clash on Saturday, but the Greyhounds scored the final nine points and made a critical defensive stop to hang on to a 33-32 victory on Patterson Field.
Senior quarterback Sal Bello and junior wide receiver Carmen Fortino had huge afternoons and the Bears returned two interceptions for touchdowns, but Kenny Kane's 23-yard field goal with 3:54 to play proved the game-winner in a second consecutive heartbreaker for Ursinus, which last week fell 30-27 at McDaniel on a field goal as time expired. Bello went 39-for-52 for 396 yards, shattering the previous school record of 30 completions in a single game. Fortino was on the receiving end of 12 of them, a career-high that matches the program mark accomplished twice by Jerry Rahill in 2013.
Fortino's dozen catches covered 143 yards and included a 29-yard touchdown on a picture-perfect deep ball by Bello that gave Ursinus a 23-11 lead at halftime against a Moravian (4-1, 3-1) squad that came in leading the conference in scoring offense, total offense, and rushing offense. The Bears limited Greyhounds star running back Chris Negron to just 56 yards on 18 carries, the first time all season the senior had been held below 100 yards on the ground.
Moravian senior quarterback Mike Hayes gave the visitors their first lead at 24-23 on a 4-yard touchdown run, his second of the game, on the first play of the fourth quarter. Bello engineered a 12-play drive that ended in a short field goal by senior Nicholas Ford, and senior linebacker Timothy Rafter stepped in front of Hayes' pass on the next play from scrimmage, dashing to the end zone with the first pick-six of his career and his seventh interception. The extra point was wide right, keeping Moravian within a possession at 32-24 with 9:18 to go.
Jorden Stout's 2-yard rumble cut the Ursinus edge to 32-30, but the Bear defense forced an incomplete pass on the two-point conversion to maintain the lead. A miscommunication on a snap resulted in a fumble by Bello, and Stout recovered at the Bears' 12. The Ursinus defense stood tall, limiting the Greyhounds to a go-ahead field goal.
A sack on third down forced the Bears to punt, giving Moravian the ball with 2:14 to play. Negron picked up a new set of downs with a 15-yard jaunt, but Ursinus had a chance to get off the field on a 3rd-and-6. Buying time in the pocket, Hayes eventually found Ra'Von Burton underneath for a game-clinching first down.
Unable to get anything going in the run game (5 yards total on 20 attempts), the Bears instead took to the air, slicing and dicing the Moravian defense with a litany of short passes and underneath routes. Fortino was the beneficiary of the play-calling, racking up a 140-yard receiving game for the second time this season.
Senior Corey Kelly caught eight balls out of the backfield, and junior Jonathan Gerhartz had four receptions for 67 yards. Gardner (5 catches, 29 yards) and juniors Shawn Hackett (3-42), Alex Drum (3-31), and James Hickey (3-20) all nabbed at least three catches.
Hayes finished 33-of-51 for 274 yards and a touchdown while rushing 12 times for 68 yards and a pair of scores. Aaron Hudson racked up nine receptions for 79 yards and a TD.
Senior Robert Glanville and sophomore Brian Meilinger notched nine tackles each for Ursinus, with Rafter and freshman Jack Spingler chipping in eight in addition to their interception return touchdowns. Spingler's, an 8-yard scoring play, gave the Bears a 16-8 advantage late in the first half. It was the first time Ursinus returned two interceptions for scores since a 47-7 rout of TCNJ in the 2014 opener.
Freshman Stacey Gardner's first career rushing touchdown, a 2-yard plunge late in the first quarter, lifted Ursinus to a 6-0 lead, and the home side stretched the lead to nine on a 30-yard field goal by Ford.
The Greyhounds didn't get on the board until a 4-yard touchdown run by Hayes, but Spingler's pick-six and Fortino's touchdown catch sandwiched around a field goal by Kane made it 23-11 at the break. Hudson's 9-yard scoring reception cut the lead to 23-18 early in the third before Hayes gave Moravian its first lead and set off the wild closing sequence.
The football team heads into the league-wide bye week before resuming CC competition at Juniata on Saturday, October 15.