Miscues Hurt Bucknell Football in 20-14 Loss to Lafayette
Sept. 22, 2012
LEWISBURG, Pa. - Playing its first home game in 11 months, the Bucknell football team had a chance to defeat Lafayette for a second consecutive year, but turnovers and penalties hurt the Bison as they lost by a 20-14 margin to the Leopards. Bucknell did have the ball in the final minutes in front of a Family Weekend crowd at Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium with a chance to take the lead on a touchdown, but could not advance past midfield.
Lafayette (3-0, 1-0 Patriot League) led 10-0 in the first half and Ryan Gralish's 26-yard field goal with 6:44 to play put the Leopards up 20-7. However, the Bison still had some fight in them as quarterback Brandon Wesley engineered a 9-play, 73-yard drive that concluded with him rushing for a 12-yard score to make it 20-14. Wesley was 4-for-5 for 56 yards on the drive.
Bucknell third-year head coach Joe Susan then called for an onside kick, which Lafayette recovered near midfield with 2:34 on the clock. The Bison had all three timeouts remaining and forced a punt by the Leopards, which was ruled a touchback.
Wesley went under center with 2:04 to play and 80 yards ahead of him. He found Charles Thompson on a 4th-and-1 pass, but a sack three plays later set up a 4th-and-21 situation and a pass intended for Josh Brake fell incomplete, turning the ball over on downs.
Bucknell (1-2, 0-1 PL) was hampered by eight penalties, its most since also being flagged eight times in a 39-13 win over the Leopards in Easton a year ago. The Bison also turned the ball over three times - two interceptions, one fumble - while Lafayette did not commit a miscue. Bucknell led the nation in turnover margin a year ago, a rank that the Leopards now hold.
"We pride ourselves on our ability to protect the ball and we turned the ball over three times," said Susan.
Wesley, who tied his career high with 76 rushing yards, finished the game 18-for-33 passing for 239 yards and a touchdown. It was the third-highest passing yardage figure of his career and he crossed the 4,000-yard mark for career total offense (4,154). His career-long 45-yard run on a 3rd-and-6 set up the Bison's first touchdown midway through the second quarter, while he also had a 55-yard pass to Josh Brake for Bucknell's longest play from scrimmage this season.
Senior DB Donald Quarles recorded five pass breakups for the Bison. He had just six career pass breakups entering the game. He also posted a career high-tying five tackles. Ryan Morgan registered a team-high 10 tackles.
The Bison defense recorded 13 tackles for loss, including 3.5 by Lee Marvel. Thirteen different players posted at least one-half tackle for loss.
Bucknell outgained Lafayette 223-128 in total offense in the second half, but the Bison were unable to cut into the Leopards' 17-7 halftime advantage.
Lafayette's offense struggled running against the Bucknell defense, which was third in the nation against the run in 2011. The Leopards posted just 11 yards rushing on 31 attempts. However, Danville, Pa., native Andrew Shoop was 22-for-34 for 278 yards and a touchdown, spreading his passes to nine different receivers.
"We were giving them linebacker pressure," mentioned Susan. "Our 4-2-5 defense is an eight-man front. Like us, Lafayette is a downhill running team and our defense is schooled against it. They combated us by going with the short passing game."
Lafayette went on top early in the game, taking a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. Greg Kessle plowed in from one yard out just a few plays after a Kyni Scott interception.
A 46-yard field goal by Gralish put the Leopards up 10-0 early in the second quarter. Lafayette benefitted from 30 yards of Bucknell penalties on the drive.
The Bison then got on the board on their ensuing drive thanks to Wesley's 45-yard run after eluding some pressure. He capped the drive by finding a diving Nick Gatto across the middle from 12 yards out for Gatto's first career TD reception.
Lafayette took some momentum into halftime when Shoop was 8-for-8 for 68 yards on a 9-play, 70-yard drive that ended in an 8-yard TD pass to Brandon Hall with 92 seconds left in the first half.
On its second drive of the second half, Bucknell did have a chance to make it a one possession game, but Sean Cobelli was wide left on a 32-yard field goal attempt.
Bucknell will continue its mini two-game homestand next Saturday, Sept. 29, when it hosts Cornell at 6 p.m. at Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium.