Nov. 17, 2012

 

LEWISBURG, Pa. - Brandon Wesley completed 18 of 26 passes for 200 yards and a pair of touchdowns and Tyler Smith totaled 101 all-purpose yards and scored two touchdowns to lead the Bucknell football team to a 24-21 victory Saturday afternoon at sunny Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium. The game marked the end of the 2012 season for the Bison, who won two of their final three games and captured their season finale for the fifth time in the last seven years.

Bucknell (3-8) had good field position throughout the game as its average drive start was its own 38-yard line, while Bryant's was its own 26-yard line. Interestingly, though, three of the Bison's four scoring drives started inside their own 25-yard line. Bucknell also dominated the time of possession, 35:57-24:03, and it put together five different drives of at least seven plays.

Bryant (4-7), which saw its four-game winning streak snapped, was led by Jordan Harris, who had eight catches for 179 yards and two touchdowns. However, quarterback Mike Westerhaus completed just 13 of 28 passes and was sacked four times.

The contest was close throughout. The Bison never trailed, but also didn't lead by more than a touchdown until Smith took a 10-yard screen pass from Wesley and scampered down the left sideline to give Bucknell a 24-14 lead early in the fourth quarter. That touchdown came just a handful of plays after a Joseph Francis interception gave the Bison excellent field position at the 13-yard line.

Bryant answered quickly as a 40-yard touchdown pass from Westerhaus to Harris capped an eight-play, 77-yard drive and brought the Bulldogs to within 24-21 midway through the fourth quarter.

Bucknell went three-and-out on its next drive and was forced to punt from deep in its own territory. Bryant took over at midfield with 6:45 to go and trailing by three. A 26-yard pass from to Harris brought the Bullodgs inside the 25-yard line, but the Bison defense came up big as a five-yard completion to Harris on fourth-and-nine was not enough for a first down. Bryant was reluctant to kick a field goal because placekicker Dom Kozlowski entered the game 4-for-12 on field goals this season and had already missed a 34-yarder in the first quarter.

"That fourth down stop was critical," said Bucknell third-year head coach Joe Susan after the game.

It appeared as though the Bulldogs would get the ball back when Bison punter Ryan Gutowski came onto the field with just over two minutes to play. However, Bryant was flagged for roughing the kicker, giving Bucknell the first down and the opportunity to take three consecutive knees as the clock wound down.

The win marked two in a row at Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium for the Bison, who defeated Fordham two weeks ago.

The first few minutes of the game were fast-paced and it appeared as though it would be a high-scoring affair. Bucknell drove 77 yards on seven plays in less than three minutes on its first drive, which was capped by a three-yard Tyler Smith touchdown run. Wesley was 4-for-4 for 58 yards on the drive.

Jordan Brown then returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown. He took the ball at the six-yard line and during his return the ball was stripped loose, but it bounced right in front of Brown and he picked it up mid-stride and kept running and ended up scoring to knot it at 7-7 just over three minutes into the game.

On the very next play Smith broke free for a 74-yard touchdown run appearing to make it three touchdowns in less than 200 seconds of play, but the play was called back due to holding.

Bucknell did take the lead (14-7) again midway through the second quarter when Wesley found Nick Gatto in the back right corner of the end zone on a 16-yard pass. It capped a 16-play, 80-yard drive that saw the Bison convert on five consecutive third downs. Overall, Bucknell was a solid 9 of 18 on third downs, including six of its first seven.

Bryant was able to knot the score up at 14-14 just prior to halftime as a 63-yard pass from Westerhaus to Harris set up a short five-yard scoring hookup between the two.

The Bison re-took the lead in the third quarter when Sean Cobelli connected on a 34-yard field goal. It was his 12th this season, moving him into a tie for third on the Bison single-season list.

Jordan Dudas led the Bison defense with 10 tackles, while Evan Byers recorded nine stops, three tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. He finished the season with a career-high 100 tackles, the most by a Bucknell player since Greg Jones (101) in 2009.

On the offensive side of the ball, Wesley recorded his 10th career 200-yard passing game. He completed passes to nine different receivers, although his favorite target was Victor Walker. Walker caught seven passes for a season-high 97 yards and he finished the campaign with 45 receptions, which is tied for 10th place on the Bucknell single-season list.

Smith, a senior who had 76 yards rushing and 25 receiving, finished his Bucknell career with 3,991 all-purpose yards and 20 touchdowns.

Wesley, who moved into second place on Bucknell's career passing yards list (4,926), ended the game just three yards shy of Scott Auchenbach's career total offense record (5,404). He also saw his streak of consecutive passes without an interception end at 126.

Bucknell, on Saturday, finished the game with 294 yards of total offense. The Bison registered 211 in the first half. Bryant managed just 252 yards, including 31 on the ground. It marked the sixth time this year a Bucknell opponent has been held under 100 yards on the ground.

In addition to being the season finale, Saturday's contest was also Senior Day. Prior to the game the Bucknell football program honored its 19 senior players in a brief on-field ceremony. Susan also gave the majority of the seniors a chance to be in the starting line. Additionally, injured senior Jeremiah Young trotted onto the field for the first time in a couple of weeks for the game's final play.

"Going into the offseason with a win and with the amount of young players we have, they now understand how hard it is to win and will only help us as we move toward the future," said Susan after the victory.

Bucknell-Bryant Video Highlights