LEWISBURG, Pa. – On Friday, the Bucknell football team took to the Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium field as one unit for the final time until preseason practice begins in August. The Bison held their 15th and final practice of the spring on a pleasant night, highlighted by a controlled scrimmage portion that served as the spring game.
In a change from recent years, a scoring formula was used with points awarded to the offense and defense for special situations. The defense received points for forcing incomplete passes, interceptions, and 3-and-outs. The offense earned points for completions, touchdowns and field goals.
The defense ended up winning by a score of 39-36 thanks to an interception by Drew Newcomb on the final play.
“It was good to get out on the field in front of people,” said head coach Joe Susan, who will enter his eighth year on the Bison sideline this fall. “Some guys were nervous because of the game-like atmosphere, but they have to be able to understand it is just football.”
Bucknell took the field a little before 6 p.m., and after a brief warmup period, retreated to the sideline for the National Anthem.
Following the National Anthem, four team awards were presented. OL Chuck Sanders was named the Most Improved Offensive Player of the spring, while SAF Brice Sydnor was cited as the Most Improved Defensive Player. He went on to break up at least three passes – including a pair in the end zone – during the scrimmage. K Jack Chambers was named the Most Improved Special Teams Player, and LB Mark Pyles followed with his third consecutive Strength and Conditioning MVP Award.
DL Abdullah Anderson, Pyles and fellow LB Ben Richard were then introduced as 2017 team captains. It is the second straight year Pyles will serve as team captain. All three will be seniors in the fall.
With nearly 300 potential recruits and their families in the stands, the scrimmage – and scoring – portion of practice commenced. The score was close throughout the different segments of the scrimmage and was tied 36-all as a two-minute drill concluded the session. Matt Muh completed 17- and 27-yard passes to Jack Horan, and a seven-yard pass to Alan Butler to move to the 3-yard line. Newcomb then picked off a pass on the final play to clinch the victory in the scoring column for the defense.
Colin Jonov opened the scrimmage with an interception during a 7-on-7 portion, while the first touchdown was scored on a 10-yard reception by Andrew Podbielski in the back left corner of the end zone.
“We still need to find out what we are best at offensively,” commented Susan, who introduced a new offensive coordinator to the team this spring. “Questions lead to the offensive line where we are replacing five seniors, and there is still competition at quarterback at this time between Matt Muh and John Chiarolanzio.
Susan noted the countdown clock to the Marist game (Sept. 2 season opener) is now at 133 days. The team will be back in the weight room on Monday, and will utilize two four-week summer sessions to have the players on campus working out. All the incoming freshmen are expected to be on campus for the second of those sessions, enabling them to make a smoother transition to college.
With spring practice complete, it is now time for some community activities for the Bison. Susan will lead the team to Weiser State Forest in Catawissa, Pennsylvania, on Saturday morning to plant trees.