Blocked Kick Preserves Football Win

Saturday, November 5, 2011
 

Wrestling

Things were looking ominous for the Muhlenberg football team as Ursinus lined up for a potential game-tying field goal with 2.7 seconds to play.

But luckily for the Mules, it turns out no situation is too ominous for Andrew Onimus.

The sophomore, known to his teammates as “Moose,” looked more like an eagle as he flew above the pile and blocked the kick, allowing Muhlenberg to hold on for a dramatic 24-21 win in Collegeville.

Click here to see video of the blocked kick.

“That’s just the type of player he is,” senior Chris Hartzell said of Onimus. “He works

J.T. Merklinger
Merklinger finished with a game-high 94 yards on 17 carries.
hard every day and never lets up. He’s going to be a great player, and that was one heck of a play.”

The win, coupled with Gettysburg’s loss to Dickinson, gives Muhlenberg sole possession of second place in the Centennial Conference with one week to go in the season. And while the score wound up being close, the opening 30 minutes were anything but.

Muhlenberg wasted no time getting out to an early lead. Junior Dan Deighan rushed for 28 yards on the second play from scrimmage, then scampered 40 yards on the next play to give the Mules a 7-0 lead just 1:27 into the game. It was the second straight week Deighan rushed for a touchdown on the third play of the game, although this time there was no snow involved.

The Mules continued to move the ball effectively throughout the first half and cashed in again when Deighan hit classmate Isaiah Vaughn on a fade in the back right corner of the end zone three minutes into the second quarter. Vaughn, playing for

Chris Hartzell
Hartzell made five tackles and broke up two passes, one of them in the end zone.
the first time in seven weeks, bobbled the ball, but was able to secure it and keep one foot in bounds to make it 14-0.

On Muhlenberg’s next drive, junior J.T. Merklinger broke off a 26-yard run to move the ball to the Bear 26.

Three plays later, Deighan rolled to his right, which drew the entire defense to that side of the field. Meanwhile, freshman tight end Michael Long ran a drag route to the left, where he was wide open. Deighan put his throw on the mark, and the Mules took a 21-0 lead into the locker room.

Muhlenberg statistically dominated the first half, outgaining Ursinus 277-163, including 128-66 on the ground. The key, according to senior offensive tackle Phil Musick, was getting into a rhythm.

“We found a few plays that worked and stuck with them,” he said. “We were able to get a

Michael Long
Long was one of eight Mules to catch a pass in the game and is the eighth different Muhlenberg player to catch a touchdown pass this season.
few big plays, and that really helped our confidence and got us going. We were working really well as a unit.”

But the momentum shifted quickly in the second half as Ursinus intercepted two Mule passes and used a quick passing game to move the ball. The Bears finally got on the board with a touchdown with a little less than five minutes to play in the period.

On its next drive, Ursinus struck quickly with an 85-yard touchdown pass to make it a one-score game.

But the Mule defense stiffened and stopped Ursinus on its next two possessions. And after gaining a total of 36 yards on its first five drives of the second half, Muhlenberg’s offense took over at its own 31 with 5:55 to play in regulation.

Looking to burn clock, the Mules ran four times for 26 yards and faced third-and-3 at the Bear 43. Deighan rolled out and hit junior Eric Gilbert for 15 yards to keep the drive alive.

Muhlenberg eventually got to the 21, and senior Gregg Mercogliano came on to kick a 38-yard field goal to make it a two-score game with 1:43 to play.

But the Bears would not go away quietly, driving 58 yards in seven plays to pull to within three with 37.9 seconds remaining.

Ursinus recovered the ensuing onside kick and completed a pair of passes to the Mule 28. But Muhlenberg’s defense stopped the Bears from getting any closer, setting up Onimus’ special teams heroics.

“My heart was pounding a little, and I got sort of nervous when they got the onside kick,” Musick said. “But I had faith in the defense, and they came through once again. They’re always making big plays, and today was no different.”

Deighan threw for 136 yards and two touchdowns, rushed for 76 yards and a score, caught three passes for 38 yards and punted three times for a 39.0 average. He moved into eighth place on the school’s career passing list.

Senior Patrick McDonough paced the defense with eight tackles (seven solo), while classmate Victor Taiwo finished with two tackles for loss, including a sack.

It’s the second year in a row the game between the Mules and Bears came down to the final minutes, and according to Hartzell, that made the win even sweeter.

“It was intense,” he said. “But we stuck in it, and I’m so proud of all the guys. I would have preferred it have been not as close, but that’s the way it always is with Ursinus. It always feels a little extra special when you can pull out a tight game like that.”
Click here for box score.
Click here for complete stats.