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Muhlenberg College

Saturday, November 17, 2007

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Basketball, Cross country

football extends dream season
with ncaa win vs. salisbury

ncaa There wasn’t much difference in total offense, but there was plenty of difference in turnovers.

The Muhlenberg football scored 10 fourth-quarter points off fumbles to defeat Salisbury, 31-21, in the first round of the NCAA Division III playoffs.

The undefeated Mules, who set a school record with their 11th win of the season, advance to the second round to face two-time national semifinalist Wesley, a 45-17 winner against Hampden-Sydney. The winner of that game will host the regional final on December 1, since top-seeded Washington & Jefferson was upset by North Carolina Wesleyan.

Muhlenberg opened up a 21-6 lead early in the second quarter on John DeLuca’s third touchdown of the
John DeLuca
DeLuca crosses the goal line with the first touchdown of the game. His 16 rushing TDs this season are the third-most in team history.
game, but Salisbury stormed back to tie the score at 21 on a 77-yard touchdown pass midway through the fourth quarter.

The Mules went three-and-out on their next possession, but on the first play after the punt, linebacker Dustin Good forced and recovered a fumble on the Sea Gull 23-yard line. Three plays later, Jordon Grube drilled a 38-yard field goal to put Muhlenberg back up in front with 4:37 to play.

"Fourth quarter, tie ball game ... as a guy in my position it’s awesome to be able to make a play like that," said Grube, who tied his season long with the go-ahead three-pointer. "It was a pressure kick, but something I’ve prepared myself for."

On the first play after the kickoff, Salisbury fumbled an option pitch on a hit by Matt Rathbun, and Kevin Ciccarello recovered at the Salisbury 43. After the Mules picked up a first down on an offside penalty on third-and-2, Eric Santagato hit Edward DeRisi with a 31-yard touchdown pass along the right sideline to give Muhlenberg a 10-point advantage at the 3:38 mark.

The Sea Gulls threw four incomplete passes on the next series, and the Mules ran off the last 3:15.

In the matchup between the Salisbury rushing offense, ranked
Matt Rathbun
Rathbun chases down Salisbury quarterback Ronnie Curley. The Sea Gulls’ leading rusher coming into the game, Curley rushed 16 times for minus-5 yards and was sacked five times.
second in Division III, and the Muhlenberg defense, also ranked second in the nation, it was the Mule offense that controlled the game early on. DeLuca rushed for 129 yards on 12 carries on Muhlenberg’s first four series, scoring from 18, 29 and 1 yards out. The Sea Gulls got on the board on a 54-yard run late in the first quarter.

Ahead 21-6, the Mules appeared to be on their way to expanding their lead on their first drive of the second quarter, but Grube was stopped a yard short of the end zone on a fake field goal. Salisbury came back and drove 99 yards in 12 plays, closing to within a touchdown with 4:54 left in the first half.

The defenses controlled the third quarter. The Sea Gulls had the best scoring opportunity but were turned away when Chris Swensen blocked a 33-yard field goal attempt.

Muhlenberg had a slight 365-364 advantage in total yards. Santagato finished 15-of-23 for 193 yards, and DeLuca ended with 186 yards on 34 carries to break the school record for rushing yards in a season (1,453). Rathbun made a game-high 12 tackles for a defense that held Salisbury to 154 rushing yards, 186 below its average. Good (eight tackles), Ciccarello (six tackles, two fumble recoveries), junior nose William Moates (seven tackles, 1.5 sacks) and freshman linebacker Scott Gavin (two half-sacks) also came up big on defense.

"I give all the credit to Muhlenberg because they made big plays," said Salisbury head coach Sherman Wood. "Wesley definitely doesn’t want to take these guys for granted."
Click here for box score.

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