LEWISBURG, Pa. – Holy Cross toppled the Bucknell football team, 20-0, in the Patriot League opener for both teams Saturday at Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium.
Diquan Walker rushed for 72 yards and two touchdowns while Peter Pujals, a two-time All-Patriot League selection, threw for 178 yards to lead the Crusaders (1-1) past the Bison (1-1).
After recovering a fumble on the opening kickoff, Holy Cross started its first drive on the Bucknell 22. While the Crusaders took three penalties on that drive, which pushed them as far back as the Bison 32, Pujals connected with Richie DeNicola for a 30-yard gain that set up Walker for a two-yard touchdown rush.
The Bison had a prime opportunity to even the score after Bryan Marine tipped a Pujals pass to Aaron Brown, setting up the offense on the Bucknell 45 with 10:27 on the clock. The Bison reached the Holy Cross 23 thanks to a pass interference penalty and a six-yard Jack Horan reception. But, on a 4th and 4, Matt Muh’s pass to Horan fell just short.
With 7:01 remaining in the first, Jack Kutschke forced a fumble, and Tyler Ahmad recovered it to give Holy Cross the ball on the Bucknell 44. The Bison defense came up big, forcing the Crusaders to settle for a 25-yard field goal. During that Holy Cross possession, Chanse Riley had a pair of tackles and a pass breakup.
On Bucknell’s first drive of the second quarter, Teddy Capsis sacked Muh deep in the Bison end, and the ball came loose. While Akeem Walcott recovered it on the 13-yard line, the Bucknell defense held fast to force Holy Cross to settle for a 31-yard field goal.
The Bison’s longest drive of the first half started at the 6:53 mark of the second quarter. On the second play, Chad Freshnock broke free for a 30-yard gain that advanced Bucknell to the Crusader 34. Freshnock later caught a seven-yard pass on a 4th and 7 to keep the drive alive, but the Bison couldn’t get past the Holy Cross 24. John Burdick’s 41-yard field goal attempt ultimately sailed wide left.
At the midpoint of the third quarter, the Crusaders were threatening to extend their lead. In five plays, they went from their nine-yard line to Bucknell’s 30. After Abdullah Anderson and Blake Fletcher teamed to sack Pujals for a loss of six yards, bringing up a 3rd and 11, a pass interference penalty gave Holy Cross a first down. But Jon Fox stepped in front of a Pujals pass on the next play to regain the ball for the Bison.
Bucknell went three and out on the resulting drive, and the Crusaders took over on the Bison 35 after a 19-yard punt return by Alim Muhammad. Walker capped the abbreviated drive by rushing for his second touchdown, a two-yard score, at 1:48 of the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, the Bison had the longest drive of the game, an 18-play, 71-yard drive that drained 9:37 off the clock. Muh opened that drive by connecting with Horan for a 14-yard gain and later found Kinner on back-to-back plays for 13 yards. At the Holy Cross 46, Bucknell faced a 4th and 2, but Andrew Podbielski caught a four-yard pass to keep the drive alive.
Right after Podbielski's reception, Muh scrambled 16 yards for a first down. Five plays later, Joey DeFloria nearly found the end zone, but Ryan Brady tackled him a yard shy. Brady's shoe-string tackle ended up being the reason the Crusaders earned their shutout since Oct. 24, 2015 against Lafayette.
Holy Cross held strong on the goal line, stuffing two DeFloria rushing attempts short of the end zone and hurrying Muh into throwing an incomplete pass. On 4th and goal from the Crusader nine-yard line, Ahmad tipped Muh's pass out of Andrew Owers's reach.
Muh finished with 138 yards on 22-for-39 passing, connecting with eight different receivers. Horan (48) and Butler (36) each exceeded 30 receiving yards. Freshnock led the way on the ground with 38 rushing yards.
Joe Lauro led the Bison defense with eight tackles (five solo) while Riley was close behind with a career-best seven (two solo). Eight Bison had a tackle for a loss.
Holy Cross had a trio of receivers who totaled at least 40 yards in DeNicola (55), Bell (45) and Darrius Lacy (41). Brady led all players with 10 tackles (seven solo) while Nick McBeath posted nine (six solo).
Bucknell held a slim 30:48 to 29:12 advantage in time of possession. Holy Cross went 5-for-15 on third down conversions while Bucknell went 3-for-15. The Bison went 3-for-5 on fourth downs.
The Bison return to action next Saturday, Sept. 16 at 6 p.m. when they take on William & Mary for the first time since 1996 in Williamsburg, Va.
The Crusaders scored 13 of their 20 points off of turnovers. They recovered three fumbles and picked off one pass in the contest.
Brown and Fox each caught his first career interception.
Pujals threw for 358 yards and one touchdown against FBS foe UConn in Holy Cross's season-opening loss on Aug. 31.
The Crusaders stretched their winning streak over the Bison in Lewisburg, Pa. to four games.
Bucknell last suffered a shutout on Sept. 28, 2013, a 16-0 loss to Sacred Heart.
The Bison moved to 18-14 all-time in Patriot League openers.
On a bad snap in the third quarter, offensive lineman John Hunt picked up the ball and carried it 13 yards for a first down. Bucknell ultimately didn't capitalize on their extended drive.
Lauro made his 100th career tackle. He now has 104.
Ben Richard made his 100th solo tackle. He now has 103. He is also closing in on making the 200th tackle of his career; he enters the William & Mary game needing nine to reach the milestone.