EASTON, Pa. – Colin Jonov returned an interception 95 yards for a touchdown in overtime to lift the Bucknell football team to a 13-7 victory over Lafayette Saturday afternoon at Fisher Stadium.
“It’s an indescribable feeling,” Jonov said. “Initially, I saw a cutback, and I took it. And then, after I saw and took the cutback, I saw nothing but green. I was just thinking, ‘Do not go down no matter what. Just stay on your feet and score.’ And that’s what happened.”
The game was a defensive struggle, with the Bison and Leopards combining for 394 yards of total offense and 22 first downs. With its victory, its 600th in program history, Bucknell improved to 4-3 (1-1 Patriot League) on the season.
The Bison jumped out to a 7-0 lead at the 12:56 mark of the first quarter. With Lafayette (2-5, 2-1 Patriot League) facing a 3rd and 8 on its 32-yard line, Drew Newcomb stepped in front of Sean O’Malley’s pass to the out-route receiver and raced 31 yards down the Bucknell sideline for a touchdown.
The Bison defense was the story of the first quarter. While the Leopards held an 11:07 to 3:53 advantage in time of possession, Bucknell limited them to just 64 yards of total offense, 57 of which came through the air.
Neither team could get into a rhythm offensively in the second quarter. Lafayette’s best chance to even the score came with 9:07 on the clock after Demetrius Breedlove’s strip sack gave its offense the ball on Bucknell’s 39. But the Bison defense forced the Leopards to go three and out; during that sequence, Simeon Page tied up Dylan Wadsworth for no gain and an aggressive blitz hurried O’Malley into throwing back-to-back incompletions.
On its first drive of the second half, Lafayette covered 60 yards in eight plays to score the equalizing touchdown. Highlights of that drive included lengthy rushes by C.J. Amill (24 yards to the Bucknell 29) and Selwyn Simpson (19 yards to the Bucknell 7). Simpson ultimately capped the drive with a two-yard touchdown rush, the first of his career.
With 9:39 remaining in regulation, the Bison took over on their six-yard line after a 49-yard punt. John Chiarolanzio orchestrated a 17-play, 69-yard drive, highlighted by his 13-yard pass to Marquis Carter while under pressure on a 3rd and 8. That play brought Bucknell into field-goal range, at the Lafayette 25, but John Burdick ultimately missed his 42-yard field goal attempt with 1:19 left to play.
After the teams traded three and outs, they went into bonus time. The Bison won the toss and elected to start on defense. On the first play of the Leopards’ possession, Jonov leaped to pick off O’Malley’s pass and raced 95 yards for the game-winning score.
Bucknell led Lafayette in total offense (208-186). Chiarolanzio completed 14 of 25 passes for 129 yards. Jack Horan led the Bison with 43 receiving yards while Chad Freshnock paced the team on the ground with 50 rushing yards.
The Bison will look to ride the momentum from their dramatic victory into Saturday, Oct. 28’s game at Colgate. The Bison and Raiders (4-4, 2-1 Patriot League) boast the Patriot League’s best overall records.
Bucknell became the 19th FCS program to reach the 600-win plateau.
Jonov’s interception return for a touchdown was the sixth-longest touchdown in program history. Bucknell’s longest pick 6, it is one of only six scoring plays of at least 95 yards. The other five were all kickoff returns.
Of Bucknell’s 17 scoring plays of at least 90 yards, 12 were kickoff returns, three were runs from the line of scrimmage and two were interception returns. Joe Glenn owned the previous school record for longest interception return for a touchdown, a 90-yard score in a 33-28 win over Delaware State on Sept. 6, 2003.
Bucknell last went to overtime on Sept. 24, 2016. VMI won that game, which went to triple overtime, 23-17. The Bison last won an overtime game on Oct. 3, 2015 at VMI, a 28-22 victory.
With today’s victory, Bucknell stretched its winning streak over Lafayette to four games. The Bison have previously enjoyed four winning streaks against the Leopards of equal or greater length: from 1929 to 1945 (6), 1968 to 1972 (5) and 1949 to 1952 (4).
Newcomb’s pick 6 was his first career interception. It was Bucknell’s second interception return for a touchdown in 2017; in the season opener against Marist, Jonov had a 64-yard pick 6. Both Jonov and Newcomb’s interceptions opened the scoring.
Alex Pechin had another strong game, averaging 42.6 yards per punt. He dropped two punts inside of the 20 and also posted a 55-yard punt. With 341 yards, he exceeded 5,000 in his career; he will enter the Colgate game with 5,251.
Fennimore’s first-quarter sack, which was for a loss of 13 yards, was the first of his collegiate career.
With today’s win, Bucknell will enter next week’s game as the only Patriot League team above .500.
Jonov’s interception return was later featured on ESPN’s College Football Live.