EASTON, Pa. – Lafayette’s Ross Scheuerman rushed 20 times for 188 yards, quarterback Andrew Dzurik completed 22 of 37 passes for 235 yards and the Leopards defeated Bucknell 31-7 Saturday evening at Fisher Stadium. It was the first Patriot League game of the season and in sharp contrast to Bucknell’s last visit to Easton in 2011 that took place in a fierce snowstorm, this one was played in temperatures that were pushing 80 degrees at kickoff.
The Bison forced four Lafayette (1-3, 1-0 PL) turnovers as Matthew Steinbeck had two interceptions, Clayton Ewell recorded his first career interception and the Leopards’ Darrell Crawford dropped a first-half punt.
"When teams pressure you it reduces your comfort zone and that is what Lafayette does," said Bison head coach Joe Susan. "We have a young quarterback, but that's not an excuse. There are some things we have to fix and we will.
"RJ is someone that played six games as a senior last year. This process was so beneficial to him. He will only get better. He is good and we will work our tails off to make sure he does."
Lafayette scored three touchdowns in the first 20 minutes of the contest to take a 21-0 lead. The first score came when the Leopards capitalized on a Nitti fumble that gave them the ball at the two-yard line. One play later Scheuerman scored.
Lafayette went up 14-0 with 5:18 left in the first quarter when Dzurik completed a two-yard pass to Brandon Hall. It capped an eight-play, 53-yard drive that featured 47 rushing yards by Scheuerman.
Dzurik capped a six-play drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Morgan Donohue with 11:44 left in the second quarter to make it 21-0.
Bucknell cut into Lafayette’s lead late in the first half when it capitalized on Crawford’s dropped punt. Crawford called for a fair catch and let the ball slip between his hands. Travis Friend recovered the ball at the Lafayette 23-yard line. A pass interference call against a Lafayette defensive back moved the Bison to a first-and-goal situation from the 10-yard line. On a third-and-goal from the 12, Nitti dropped back and found a diving Charles Thompson along the back edge of the end zone. A horizontal Thompson acrobatically got a foot down to record his first career touchdown and Nitti’s first career touchdown pass with 4:48 left in the first half.
The Bison held the Leopards without a point for the final 11:44 of the first half as Lafayette had two punts, lost a fumble and Dzurik threw an interception during that span. Steinbeck recorded his first interception and returned it 33 yards on the second-to-last play of the first half.
Steinbeck added another interception in the second half, giving him eight in his career to put him in a tie for 14th on the program’s all-time list. His 205 career interception return yards put him just 27 shy of equaling Gene Luccarelli’s school record.
The Leopards added 10 second-half points with three coming on a Ryan Gralish 24-yard field and the other seven coming on a 78-yard touchdown run by Scheuerman.
Tajh Turner, who posted a career-high nine tackles, and Evan Byers led the Bison in stops on the defensive side of the ball. Ewell added a career-high seven tackles, including three for loss, while Matt Johnson registered a pair of sacks.
Bucknell’s versatile Kyle Sullivan punted a program-record 13 times and totaled a Patriot League single-game mark of 474 yards. He also returned five kicks for 90 yards, one punt for eight yards and caught one pass for six yards in addition to serving as the holder on an extra point.
Bucknell turned the ball over twice during the game, fumbling once and throwing one interception.
The Bison will return home next Saturday, Oct. 12, when they host Holy Cross at Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m.