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Muhlenberg College

Saturday, November 8, 2008

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Wrestling, women’s soccer

Football wraps up cc title, ncaa bid


Some pictures are worth 1,000 words. The one above might not be, but it gives a pretty succinct summary of what the Muhlenberg football team accomplished in its last scheduled home game of the 2008 season.

The Mules’ 45-8 win against Ursinus clinched their second straight Centennial Conference championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The national playoffs begin on Saturday, Nov. 22, and Muhlenberg is likely to have at least one home game if its beats Moravian in the regular-season finale next Saturday.

Muhlenberg (9-0, 7-0) has won 20 consecutive regular-season games, 15 straight CC games and 13 home contests in a row.

That’s the picture. So read on if you like, but what follows is not so important, merely details. And many of them should come as no surprise.

The Mules won a game they were supposed to.
The last two years Muhlenberg has played five games against teams with two or fewer wins in the CC (although Ursinus can play its way out of that category with a win against Dickinson next week). The Mules won those five games by an average score of 44-5. One of those games was a shutout, and in two others (including this one) the opponent’s only score came on a kickoff return.

Muhlenberg, ranked third in Division III, dominated both sides of the ball against the Bears (3-6, 2-5), gaining 561 yards and allowing only 150. Ursinus did not have a rush longer than 5 yards and finished with a net of minus-16 yards rushing on 15 carries.

John DeLuca ran the ball. A lot.
The senior running back rushed 40 times for 202 yards and three touchdowns – his second 200-yard game in the last four weeks and his 19th career 100-yard game. This against an opponent that came in second in the CC against the rush, allowing only 117.0 yards per game.

DeLuca didn’t only carry the load in the Matt Rathbun third quarter – he was the load. On an 86-yard drive that culminated with the Mules’ fourth touchdown, all 12 plays were carries by DeLuca. He finished off his own personal drive with a 1-yard run to go along with TD rushes of 8 and 2 yards in the game.

And while diversity in the Muhlenberg offense often means running DeLuca right on some plays and left on others, he did show another dimension, completing a 65-yard touchdown pass to Phil Cresta in the first quarter. It was DeLuca’s second career TD pass in as many attempts.

Matt Rathbun forced a turnover.
The senior linebacker provided the first points of the game when he intercepted a pass on Ursinus’ second play from scrimmage and returned the pigskin 29 yards for a touchdown. It was the 14th career turnover for Rathbun – eight fumble recoveries and six interceptions. He has returned two of the picks for touchdowns.

Asked before the game if he was more proud of his fumble recoveries or interceptions, he answered, “Definitely my fumble recoveries, because I’ll be honest – some of my interceptions could be considered gifts, when almost all of my fumble recoveries were just a result of dogfighting at the bottom of the pile.” If this one was a gift, he won’t be exchanging it.

Rathbun (left) had a big game all-around on defense, making seven tackles, including 3 for loss – the most (not counting sacks) by a Mule since 1991.

Eric Santagato hurt the other team with his arm and his legs.
The senior quarterback threw for 206 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 56 yards on seven carries – his fifth game this season with at least 250 yards of total offense. Santagato’s passing output gave Muhlenberg a 200-yard rusher and 200-yard passer for only the second time in school history.

The offensive line took control of the game in the second half.
For the third game in a row, the Mules put Edward DeRisi together a drive of more than seven minutes in the third quarter. Thanks to the blocking of center Mike Nolan, guards Mike Gawel and Steve Halupka and guards Kevin Hussey and Mark Bigelli, Muhlenberg held possession for more than 20 minutes and averaged nearly eight yards per play in the second half.

Michael Katz made all his extra points.
The sophomore went 6-for-6 to extend his school-record streak to 42 in a row. Katz also booted a 37-yard field goal on the last play of the first half.

The Mules have extraordinary depth.
Injuries are common this time of year, and the Mules didn’t miss a beat despite playing most of the game without three of their starters. Freshman Chris Hartzell made his first career start at cornerback and intercepted a pass at the 14-yard line to stop the Bears’ deepest penetration. Senior Edward DeRisi stepped in after Cresta was injured and caught six passes for a career-high 113 yards, stretching across the goal line (right) for the final touchdown. Sophomore Bobby Bushong also filled in, catching a 30-yard pass and returning a punt 73 yards for a touchdown, although the play was negated by a penalty. Junior Codie Bender stepped in at fullback and caught three balls for 41 yards.
Click here for box score.
Click here for complete stats.

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