LEWISBURG, Pa. – Chad Freshnock rushed for a career-high 174 yards and three touchdowns, but the Bucknell football team was downed by Lehigh, 42-21, in its Homecoming game on Saturday at Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium.
The Mountain Hawks (3-6, 3-1 Patriot League) scored three unanswered rushing touchdowns in the first quarter’s final nine minutes and never looked back, sending the Bison to 4-5 (1-3 Patriot League) on the season.
For Lehigh, Dom Bragalone ran for 136 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries while Brad Mayes completed 17 of 25 passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns. Gatlin Casey caught both of Mayes’s touchdown passes; he and Troy Pelletier accounted for all but eight of the Mountain Hawks’ receiving yards.
Turnovers and penalties were the story of the first quarter. Lehigh scored two of its first three touchdowns following a Bucknell fumble, and their second came one play after a penalty pushed them up 15 yards to the Bison 44.
After Mark Walker forced a fumble and returned it nine yards to the Bucknell nine-yard line, Mayes opened the scoring by throwing an eight-yard touchdown pass to Casey at the 9:54 mark.
Just over a minute later, Freshnock found the end zone for the first time, breaking free for an 85-yard score. But Bragalone responded with his first rushing touchdown 16 seconds later, scampering 44 yards to the end zone to make it a 14-7 game.
A fumble on the resulting kickoff gave the Mountain Hawks the ball back, and they took advantage. They covered 33 yards in four plays, with Bragalone capping the short drive with a seven-yard touchdown run.
Micco Brisker made it a 28-7 game with 1:03 left to play in the first quarter. His 22-yard rushing score completed an eight-play, 52-yard drive that saw Mayes connect with both Casey and Pelletier for at least 10 yards.
The Bison cut their deficit to 28-14 at the 10:49 mark of the second quarter when Freshnock got a big block from Andrew Podbielski and ran 23 yards for his second score. Freshnock accounted for all 70 of Bucknell’s yards during that drive on four carries for 61 yards and one reception for nine yards.
Mayes then led an eight-play, 75-yard scoring drive to put Lehigh back up by three touchdowns. After he found Pelletier for a 19-yard gain to set the Mountain Hawks up on the Bucknell 29, Bragalone found the end zone one play later.
Matt Muh responded by orchestrating a 15-play, 48-yard drive to the Lehigh 23. On a 4th and 9 at the Mountain Hawk 33, Marcus Ademilola caught a short pass and stretched out to pick up one more yard than the Bison needed for the first down. Quentin Jones ultimately picked off a pass intended for Justin Bethea on the one-yard line, preventing Bucknell from gaining some momentum before halftime.
In the first half, the teams combined for 457 yards of total offense, with the Bison holding a slight 230-227 edge. The teams combined for 268 yards of total offense the rest of the way, each scoring one touchdown. Casey caught a 47-yard touchdown pass at 2:04 of the third quarter while Freshnock rushed for his third touchdown, a two-yard score, at 1:06 of the fourth to cap a seven-play, 73-yard drive.
Muh completed 22 of 37 passes for 144 yards. Ademilola led all Bison receivers with 48 yards while Omar Garcia was next with a career-high 34, bolstered by a career-long 30-yard reception during Bucknell’s fourth quarter scoring drive.
The Bison next host Georgetown in their final home game of the 2017 campaign on Saturday, Nov. 11 at 12 p.m. Before the game, they will celebrate their 19-man senior class.
Freshnock became the first Bison since 2014 to rush for three touchdowns. Matt DelMauro accomplished the feat on Nov. 15 in a 31-24 overtime win at Holy Cross.
Freshnock’s 85-yard touchdown was the fifth-longest from the line of scrimmage in school history. Hassen Abdellah ran for the most recent rushing touchdown of at least 85 yards, a 91-yard score, on Oct. 27, 1979 in a 14-13 Homecoming loss to Lehigh. The other three occurred in 1938, 1946 and 1952.
Freshnock also became the first Bison since 2012 to run for at least 60 yards in a single play. On Nov. 3 in a 27-24 win over Fordham, Tyler Smith broke free for a 76-yard touchdown run.
Through the first half, Freshnock had 166 yards on 13 carries. His previous career high was 161 yards, set on Sept. 24, 2016 in a 23-17 triple overtime loss to VMI. His first half total was 68 more than Bucknell’s previous 2017 high, set by Joey DeFloria on Oct. 14 at Cornell.
Bucknell’s 342 yards of total offense was its highest total this season. The Bison previously eclipsed 300 yards against Sacred Heart (318) and at Cornell (306).
Pyles picked off his first career interception during the third quarter. Newcomb recorded his first career sack, which went for a loss of eight yards and forced Lehigh to punt from its 28.
Pyles reached the double digits in tackles for the second time in 2017 and eighth time in his career. Benson recorded at least 10 for the third time in the past five games.
Freshnock’s counterpart, Bragalone, had 112 yards and three touchdowns on 13 first-half carries.
Bragalone finished with more yards than five of Bucknell’s 2017 opponents: Marist (24), Holy Cross (134), Sacred Heart (95), Cornell (120) and Lafayette (96). With 134, Monmouth’s Eric Zokouri previously led all opponents in rushing yards against the Bison during the 2017 campaign.