LANCASTER, Pa. – Franklin & Marshall scored 13 points in the final 4:24 of action to upset No. 23 Muhlenberg 16-15 in Centennial Conference (CC) football action Saturday afternoon on a rain-soaked Sponaugle-Williamson field. The win is the 50th for head coach John Troxell as the Diplomats improved to 2-0, 1-0 CC while the Mules fell to 1-1, 0-1 CC.
F&M trailed 15-3 with 12:45 left in the fourth and after an hour lighting delay the Diplomats returned to the field and punted the ball six plays later. The defense forced a four-and-out and F&M took over on its own 43 with 7:25 left to play in the contest.
Matt Magarity marched the Diplomats 53 yards down the field on six plays and Taalib Gerald punched the ball into the end zone with a four-yard spurt on third-and-goal to bring F&M within six, 15-9 and Billy Zwicharowski added the extra point to make it 15-10.
The Mules started the ensuing drive on their own 29 with 4:17 left in the game and started to take time off the clock. Muhlenberg managed to convert and third-and-two with 2:51 left and appeared to be in control, but Vincent Moffett forced Nick Savant to fumble the ball and Jon Naji recovered on the Muhlenberg 39, giving F&M new hope.
F&M took over with 2:13 left and slowing moved the ball down the field. The Diplomats faced two third downs on the drive and converted both, none bigger than Magarity's 11-yard completion to Bobby Keyes on third-and-nine, giving F&M the ball on the Muhlenberg 11-yardline. Two plays later Magarity took it in from three yards out to put the Diplomats up 16-15 with 1:01 left in the game.
Muhlenberg drove the ball 40-yards down the field on its next possession and appeared to be in field goal range with a completion at the 16-yardline. However, Mike Harris was called for illegal touching after he stepped out of bounds, pushing the Mules back to the 32. With five seconds left, Nick Palladino heaved the ball to back corner of the end zone, but the ball fell short of Max Cepeda, securing the win for the Diplomats.
Neither team managed much offense in the first half as both were battling a heavy rain. The Mules struck first at the end of first, but failed on the PAT and took a 6-0 lead. Muhlenberg went up 9-0 at 4:30 in the second on 32-yard field goal by Casey Fosbenner.
Billy Zwicharowski put F&M on the board with a 23-yard field with 2:18 left in the half to make it 9-3. The Mules went up 15-3 at 4:40 in the third quarter and appeared to be in control, before the Diplomats started their comeback towards the end of the fourth quarter.
Magarity finished the day with 133 yards on 11 completions and two picks and added 42 yards on the ground. Palladino went 19-for-29 for 189 yards, two scores and two interceptions for the Mules.
Keyes hauled in a team-high eight passed for 60 yards while Gerald finished with 20 rushing yards and added 27 on three receptions.
Steve Elf led F&M on the defensive side of the ball with 11 tackles (7s) with three going for a loss. Benjamin Okun and Luke Foukas both had eight stops while Brendan Daly and A.J. Koikoi finished with six apiece. Michael Sullivan recorded a sack and Koikoi along with Jon Naji, Sean Triandis and Tom Lyster each picked a half-sack.
F&M returns to action next Saturday when the Diplomats travel to Ursinus for a 1:00 p.m. kickoff.