Football 2012 Season Review

 

After years of developing a well-deserved reputation for its defense, the Muhlenberg football team went on the offensive in 2012.

Frank Malandruccolo
A second-year starter at right tackle, Malandruccolo captained a line that allowed only 16 sacks in 11 games. None of those sacks came in a 61-21 win at Dickinson in which the Mules rolled up 591 total yards and their highest point total since 2002.
Led by their “DVD” trio of seniors Dan Deighan (quarterback), Isaiah Vaughn (wide receiver) and Terrence Dandridge (running back), as well as All-Centennial Conference lineman Frank Malandruccolo, the Mules averaged more than 30 points and 400 yards per game in the regular season for the first time since 2008.

Not that the defense was shabby: The Mules led the CC and were 19th in Division III in scoring defense (15.5 points per game), and record-setting sophomore linebacker Ian Gimbar ranked in the top 20 in the country in both sacks and tackles for loss.

And the special teams did all right too: Muhlenberg’s highest national team statistical ranking came in kickoff returns (ninth), and it also led the CC in net punting.

It all added up to an 8-3 record, a second-place finish in the CC, and the Mules’ ninth postseason berth in the last 13 years.

Muhlenberg outscored its first three opponents 81-7, highlighted by a home-opening 21-0 shutout of Franklin & Marshall that was the 100th career win for 16th-year head coach Mike Donnelly. But after losing on Homecoming to nationally ranked Johns Hopkins, the Mules suffered a surprising 17-0 setback at Susquehanna – their first time blanked in a CC game in 16 years.

The CC-wide bye week followed, and Muhlenberg said “bye” to its troubles from then on. The Mules reeled off five straight wins to close out the regular season, outscoring their opponents by an average margin of 40-18.

Not that the games weren’t without excitement. Muhlenberg knocked off previously undefeated Gettysburg, 35-31, on a 15-yard touchdown pass from junior Joe Carlucci to Gimbar on a fake field goal with 2:32 left. The Mules also needed overtime to defeat Ursinus, 24-17, with the game ending on a fourth-down pass breakup by freshman corner Marcus Allen.

Terrence Dandridge
Dandridge won the Bianco Award as MVP of the Moravian game for the second straight year after rushing for 185 yards and three touchdowns. His 3,368 career rushing yards were good for third on Muhlenberg's all-time list and 10th in CC history. The first Mule to rush for 1,000 yards in two non-consecutive seasons, "TD" also tied for second in program history with 35 rushing touchdowns.
Muhlenberg was rewarded for its strong finish and 8-2 record with a home playoff game. In the ECAC South Atlantic Bowl, the Mules lost to Delaware Valley, 24-21, despite a phenomenal performance by Vaughn, who returned a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown and caught scoring passes of 57 and 40 yards.

Deighan’s career was cut short prematurely when he suffered an injury in the next-to-last game of the regular season, but not before he broke the school record for career rushing yards by a quarterback (1,312) and became just the third quarterback in CC history to throw for 5,000 yards (5,130) and rush for 1,200. The four-year starter completed 58.7 percent of his passes as a senior and accounted for 14 touchdowns, nine through the air and five on the ground.

Carlucci started the last two games and finished the season with 10 touchdowns.

Vaughn and Dandridge both made the All-CC second team. Vaughn averaged 21.0 yards per catch and finished his career 10th on the Mules’ all-time list with 1,650 receiving yards in three seasons. Dandridge rushed for 1,054 yards and 13 touchdowns.

All-CC second team tight end Michael Long, a sophomore, caught 25 passes, while senior co-captain John Merklinger snagged 38, three behind Vaughn for the team lead. Juniors Kevin Van Laar (181 rushing yards, 3 TDs) and Chris Litzenberger (10 receptions) and sophomore Tyler George (20 receptions) also were key contributors on offense.

The line, which paved the way for the Mules to average 4.1 yards per carry and rush for 26 touchdowns, blended experience with youth, as seniors Malandruccolo, Garrett Bisbing and Spencer Kane lined up with sophomores Tommy DeVito and Trevor Cardo and freshmen Andrew Kincaid and Bryan Auvil.

Though just a sophomore, Gimbar led a defense that returned only two starters from 2011. A unanimous All-CC pick and an all-region selection, Gimbar set a school record with 14½ sacks among his 76 tackles. Senior rover Shane O’Connor, the other returning starter, was voted to the All-CC second team after making 46 tackles and picking off three passes.

Shane O'Connor
O'Connor had 3½ tackles for loss, two pass breakups and a fumble recovery for a unit that led the CC in scoring defense, interceptions, pass defense efficiency and red-zone defense.
Sophomore end Greg DeLade, who earned honorable mention after recording 49 tackles (6½ for loss), was the constant on a line that went through several variations. Juniors Andrew Tullo (30 tackles, 2½ for loss) and Johnathan Charles (19 tackles, 5½ for loss) ended up as the other starters.

Inside linebackers Kory Crichton and Matt Johnson, both first-year starters, were the team’s top two tacklers. Crichton, a junior, was fourth in the CC with 94 tackles (9 for loss), while Johnson, a senior, made a successful return from an injury that caused him to miss the entire 2011 season. He finished with 82 tackles (8½ for loss), four pass breakups and two interceptions to earn All-CC honorable mention.

In the secondary, senior safety Tim Vogel recorded 57 tackles and set a school record with 165 return yards on his team-leading four interceptions. Juniors Darnell Davis (25 tackles, 2 pass breakups), Andrew Onimus (38 tackles, 1 interception), sophomore Khiry Hughes (43 tackles, 5 pass breakups) and Allen (8 tackles) took turns starting at the corners, and sophomore Jeremey Thomas (50 tackles, 9½ for loss) had an exceptional season as the nickel.

Deighan received All-CC honorable mention as punter after averaging 39.9 yards per kick. Sophomore Connor Winter was 41-of-42 on extra points and kicked seven field goals, with a long of 42. Senior John Gruver was the top return man, averaging 21.2 yards on kickoff returns and 8.6 yards on punt returns.