COLLEGEVILLE, Pa. – The Ursinus College football team entered the fourth quarter of Saturday's Senior Day clash with Franklin & Marshall with everything still to play for, but it all went wrong in the final 12 minutes as the Diplomats turned an even deadlock into a 44-16 runaway victory between rivals with Centennial/MAC Bowl Series aspirations.
The Bears (4-5, 3-5) pulled into a 16-16 tie on Stacey Gardner's 2-yard touchdown run with 4:45 remaining in the third quarter, but the final frame turned into a horror show as the Diplomats reeled off four unanswered touchdowns to solidify their postseason standing.
The result spoiled a Senior Day celebration and an unprecedented performance by Brendan Shadle, who registered three interceptions – all in the first quarter – in a bizarre contest that featured a little bit of everything. The first half alone saw seven turnovers, including multiple instances of back-to-back giveaways on consecutive plays, a blocked field goal, and a pair of missed extra points.
Shadle, who became the first Ursinus player since Joe Kost in 2009 to pick off three passes in a game and is believed to be the first to do so in a single quarter, got the Bears off to a fast start with a 50-yard interception return for a touchdown on the game's first possession.
A 68-yard kickoff return by Kevin Lammers led to a field goal for F&M, and the Diplomats started their next drive at the plus-18 following a strip-sack of senior quarterback Thomas Garlick. Shadle came to the rescue again, undercutting a short pass from Jack Donaghy for his second takeaway. The junior's third interception set up Ursinus at the F&M 24 and led to a 27-yard field goal by Dakota Wherrity on the final play of the opening period.
Shane Jones short-circuited another Diplomats drive that started deep in Bears territory with an interception of his own, but the Bears were forced to punt the ball away and Keshon Farmer scored the first of his three touchdown runs to give the visitors their first lead with 3:50 left in the first half.
F&M added another just before halftime, when Drew Benfatti snuck behind the defense for a 43-yard touchdown reception to make it 16-9.
The game turned on its head early in the third quarter, when Mike Reilly scooped the snap off the ground and managed to get off a punt under heavy duress. It went only to the Bears' 16, but the defense stiffened from there as Brett Capobianco snuffed out a screen and pressured Garrett Perschy into a misfired pass to give the ball back to Ursinus.
One play later, quarterback Jack Psenicska – on for the injured Garlick – somehow evaded the rush and hit Matt Gallagher off to the right side. The senior sprinted down the sideline for a 69-yard gain all the way down to the F&M 16. After Gardner picked up a 4th-and-1 from the 7, the senior had his number called again and punched it home from the 2 for his 18th career rushing TD.
The game remained knotted after the teams traded punts, but F&M took control with another strip-sack and grabbed the upper hand for good on Farmer's 1-yard plunge with 11:26 to go. Kell Hall returned an interception 20 yards to the house just two plays later, and a muffed punt led to another Diplomats touchdown with 6:07 left. Farmer's 58-yard sprint with 2:49 on the clock capped the scoring.
Farmer finished with 123 yards on 18 carries, with Perschy going 11-of-28 for 170 yards and two scores. Perschy and Donaghy were each picked off twice.
The program's all-time leader in a number of statistical categories, Garlick threw for 122 yards and two interceptions and added 68 rushing yards in his final regular-season home start.
Gallagher had a career-high 107 yards receiving on just three catches, while Ardashes Dulgerian hauled in five receptions for 50 yards.
The Bears conclude the regular season next Saturday at Dickinson.