By Todd Merritt
Special to College Sports Journal
Editor’s Note: This story is courtesy of BucknellBison.com
WEST POINT, N.Y. — Playing an FBS opponent for the first time in 20 years, the Bucknell football team led Army by a touchdown at halftime and was tied until late in the fourth quarter, but the Black Knights’ Edgar Poe out-jumped a Bison defensive back for a pass with just under five minutes to play and ran the remainder of the 68 yards for what proved to be the winning touchdown in the 21-14 Army victory Saturday afternoon in front of 33,257 fans at Michie Stadium.
Bucknell (3-3) quarterback R.J. Nitti was 17-for-33 for 186 yards and two touchdowns and Matt DelMauro posted his second career 100-yard rushing day with a season-high 105 yards on 18 carries. The Bison totaled 290 yards of total offense. Connor Golden led Bucknell with a career-high 13 tackles and a pair of interceptions.
Army (2-5), which runs the triple option offense, totaled 377 yards of total offense, including 263 on the ground. Backup quarterback A.J. Schurr, who entered the game for injured starter Ahmad Bradshaw in the first quarter, ran for a team-high 99 yards and two touchdowns.
The game was close throughout with Bucknell tied or leading for all but 6 minutes, 10 seconds. Neither team had a lead of more than one touchdown at any point.
“There is no solace in losing that game,” said Bison sixth-year head coach Joe Susan. “It was Army’s passing game that created the explosive plays to change the score. We had 14 penalties. A lot of them were pre-snap penalties.”
The score was tied 14-14 when Army forced a Bucknell punt and took possession at its own 25-yard line. On the second play of the drive Schurr threw a long pass, which Poe fought away from Nick O’Brien and continued to the end zone to make it 21-14 with 4:44 left in the contest.
The Bison had one more possession, but a long Nitti pass intended for Bobby Kaslander was picked off on the first play. The Black Knights then ran the final 4:33 off the clock.
Bucknell took a 6-0 lead in the second quarter when it scored on a 35-yard touchdown pass from Nitti to Will Carter. Nitti found Carter on a screen and the junior wide receiver sprinted down the left sideline and outran a number of Black Knight defenders to the pylon.
The Bison drive, which was just two plays, came following Golden’s second interception of the game that gave Bucknell excellent field position inside the 50-yard line.
Army took the lead for the first time as it answered the Bison score with a 10-play, 65-yard drive that concluded with a three-yard touchdown rush by Schurr with 1:52 left before the half. Daniel Grochowski connected on the extra point.
Bucknell took a 14-7 halftime advantage thanks to an efficient drive in the final two minutes of the second quarter. DelMauro got it started with a nice 19-yard rush on the first play of the drive, while Nitti followed with a 27-yard completion to Kaslander to get the Bison into Army territory.
Later, Nitti completed another 27-yard pass to Kaslander on a 4th-and-17 from the 34-yard line that moved the Bison inside the 10-yard line.
After a rush by DelMauro, Nitti found Andrew Owers on a four-yard touchdown pass with 26 seconds remaining in the half. Nitti then found Owers again on the two-point conversion.
Bucknell kept that 14-7 advantage until Schurr completed a 12-play, 72-yard drive with another three-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter.
Thanks to Golden’s two interceptions and a fumble by the Black Knights, Bucknell won the turnover battle 3-1. In fact, the Bison didn’t turn the ball over until their final possession.
Kaslander finished with 74 yards on five catches, while Carter had 54 yards on five catches. He now has 1,555 career receiving yards, moving him past Shaun Pasternak and into 10th place on the program’s all-time list.
Bucknell scored its touchdowns on back-to-back possessions, but had four punts and a missed field goal leading up to its first score, and four punts and an interception after its final touchdown.
The Bison defense kept Army’s Erk Russell-styled running game in check, holding the Black Knights to 4.3 yards per carry, and just 48 total yards in the first quarter. Mark Pyles joined Golden with double-figure tackles, posting 10 in the game. He now has three straight outings with at least 10 tackles.
Bucknell, which is 0-1 in Patriot League play, returns to conference action next Saturday, Oct. 24, when it hosts Georgetown at 1 p.m. at Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium. It is homecoming on the Bucknell campus.