By Todd Merriett
Special to College Sports Journal
Editor’s note: This story is courtesy of www.BucknellBison.com
HAMILTON, N.Y. – The Bucknell football team gave Patriot League champion Colgate all it could handle in its season finale, but came up short, falling by a 14-10 score Saturday at Andy Kerr Stadium.
The Bison cut into a 14-0 halftime deficit, but two costly turnovers in the fourth quarter hurt Bucknell, which wrapped up the season 4-7 overall and 1-5 in Patriot League play. The Raiders finished the regular season 7-4, 6-0 PL and have earned the league’s automatic berth to the NCAA playoffs.
The Bison defense was strong all game, holding Colgate more than two touchdowns below its season average score.
The Raiders had just 84 yards of total offense in the second half and five of their nine punts came after halftime. Connor Golden and Mark Pyles each posted a team-high 10 tackles for Bucknell, while Ben Schumacher had a pair of tackles for loss.
Bison quarterback R.J. Nitti was 21-for-30 for 295 yards and one touchdown and he broke Bucknell’s single-season passing yards record (2,477).
He had three passes for longer than 40 yards on Saturday, including a 47-yard touchdown pass to Will Carter, who had eight catches for 96 yards. Bobby Kaslander had four receptions for 92 yards, including a 56-yard reception in the third quarter.
Bucknell trailed 14-0 at halftime, but took little time to get on the scoreboard in the second half. Nitti found Carter on that 47-yard flea-flicker on the first drive of the second half. The Bison converted a pair of third downs earlier in the drive.
The Colgate lead was trimmed to 14-10 when Alex Pechin connected on a 19-yard field goal at the start of the fourth quarter. A 56-yard catch and run by Kaslander down the left sideline got the Bison inside the five-yard line to set up the field goal.
The Bucknell defense continued to hold Colgate in check throughout the fourth quarter, but the Bison turned the ball over via a fumble and an interception on its two drives in the fourth quarter.
Colgate took possession of the ball with 4:03 left and ran out the clock as Bucknell had already exhausted all of its timeouts.
The key sequence in the first half occurred when a Pechin punt pinned Colgate at its own one-yard line. The Raiders were unable to move the ball and the Bison took possession with excellent field position at the Colgate 28-yard line.
Bucknell moved the ball inside the 10-yard line, but Nitti’s pass attempt was intercepted in the end zone and the Raiders answered with the game’s first points on their next drive.
Following the interception, Colgate moved down the field thanks to a 46-yard pass from Jake Melville to John Maddaluna and another for 18-yard completion to Maddaluna.
A couple plays later Melville zig-zagged into the end zone from 10 yards out on the first play of the second quarter.
Two drives later the Bison had another scoring opportunity, but Pechin missed a 30-yard field goal. Bucknell moved into field goal range thanks to a 43-yard completion from Nitti to Andrew Owers.
Colgate took its 14-0 lead into halftime thanks to a one-yard touchdown by Demetrius Russell on fourth down with 16 seconds left in the second quarter.
Melville completed just 8 of 22 passes for Colgate, which was held to 298 yards of total offense. Maddaluna had five catches for 134 yards.
Bucknell, which finished with 335 yards of total offense, was hurt by its three turnovers and it scored just once on three trips inside the Colgate 10-yard line. The Raiders also posted six sacks of Nitti.