OBERLIN, OH - Quarterback Jeff Harner (So., Mohrsville, PA/Schuylkill Valley) completed 15-of-29 passing attempts for 342 yards, including touchdown passes of 59, 98 and 52 yards in the first quarter, as the Franklin & Marshall College Diplomats (2-0, 0-0 Centennial Conference) rolled up 604 yards of total offense to defeat Oberlin College (0-2, 0-0 North Coast Athletic Conference) 41-21 in NCAA Division III action.
Overall, his performance marked the fourth most yards ever passed for by an F&M quarterback and the first time in school history any player passed for two or more 50-yard touchdowns. In addition, he ran for 78 yards as he tallied 420 yards of total offense, obliterating the previous F&M record of 368 yards held by Bill Meekings from games versus Georgetown and Johns Hopkins during the 1992 season.
Further, he recorded the longest pass and scoring pass in school history with a 98 yard touchdown pass to wideout Derek Boyce (Jr., Lancaster, PA/Lampeter-Strasburg) in the first quarter for the go-ahead score.
The game started in dramatic fashion as Oberlin quarterback Ryan Squatrito connected with Chad Kutting for a 54 yard pass play on the Yeomen's first play from scrimmage to ignite a four play, 59 yard drive capped by a four yard scamper by Squatrito into the endzone for a 7-0 Oberlin lead at 13:43 of the first quarter.
The two teams exchanged drives as the Diplomats drove to the Oberlin 46 before punting to the Yeomen 14. However, the Yeomen went four and out and punted to set the Diplomats up at their own 40-yard line.
The ball did not remain in Franklin & Marshall territory for long as tailback Scott Stephen (Sr., Glen Rock, NJ/Glen Rock) plowed his way to the F&M 41 to bring up second-and-nine yards. Harner tied the game on the next snap as he connected with Robert Donofrio (So., Sea Girt, NJ/Wall Township) on a 59-yard touchdown to close out a two play, 60-yard drive that lasted 50 seconds. Dan Eggertsson (Sr., Royal Palm, FL/Suncoast) added the extra point to knot the score at 7-7 with 8:58 left in the first quarter.
The Yeomen failed to answer on their next drive as F&M defensive lineman Matt Capone (Sr., Scarsdale, NY/Scarsdale) dropped Travis Oman for a one yard loss back to the Oberlin 34 yard line and Squatrito failed to connect with a receiver on second and third down passing attempts. Oberlin punter Ryan Drews bombed a 64-yard punt that was downed at the Franklin & Marshall two yard line yard to force the Diplomats to go 98 yards for a touchdown.
Harner completed the assignment on the first snap from scrimmage connecting with Boyce on a 98-yard pass play as Boyce raced to the endzone to close a one play 13 second drive. The touchdown marked the longest pass play and scoring pass in school history eclipsing the previous marks of 95 yards set by Larry Shadek (to Kevin Coulter, vs. Muhlenberg in 1969) and Geno Pagnozzi (to Gary Williams vs. FDU-Madison in 1989).
The pass also marked the longest touchdown and completion in NCAA Division III history since Redlands quarterback Clay Groefsema connected with Shawn Watson in a game versus Whittier College in 2001.
The Yeomen attempted to answer with a drive starting from their own 24 yard line, but Squatrito fired incomplete first and third down passes and running back Chris Jordan was dropped at the line of scrimmage by Capone to force a 47 yard punt by Drews to the F&M 20 which Donofrio returned to the F&M 30 yard line with 6:22 left in the first quarter.
Again it was Harner who ignited the offense as he rushed nine yards to the F&M 39 before Stephen raced for nine yards to the F&M 48 for a first down. The drive came to an end on the next play from scrimmage as Harner connected with Stephen for a 52 yard touchdown to cap a three play, 70 yard drive with 5:05 left in the first quarter.
Overall, of Harner's three touchdown drives in the first quarter, the Diplomats held the ball for 2:20, ran six plays and gained 228 yards (209 pass, 19 rush). The marks fall well short of the NCAA Division III records for most points scored in a brief period of time (21 points by Mount Union vs. Defiance in 33 seconds in 62-10 win) or points in a quarter (41 by Millsaps vs, Centre, Oct. 11, 2003). However, it does mark the third most points scored in a brief period of time in NCAA Division III history trailing only Mount Union and a mark of 32 points in 4:04 by Wisconsin-Stevens Point in a 35-35 tie with Wisconsin-La Crosse on September 21, 1985) as F&M put up 21 points in 3:53 from its first touchdown at 8:58 to its final of the first quarter at 5:05.
In the second quarter, Oberlin cut the lead to 21-14 as Squatrito found Zach Lewis in the endzone for an eight-yard touchdown pass to cap a seven play, 65-yard drive with 11:46 remaining until halftime.
Franklin & Marshall responded as kick returner Curtis Varner (So., State College, PA/State College) took the kickoff at his own 18 yard line and returned it 50 yards to the Oberlin 32. However, the Diplomats could not cash in as Harner led the team 18 yards on seven plays before turning the ball over on downs at the Oberlin 14 yard line.
The Yeomen failed to move the ball on the F&M defense going two yards on three plays before Drews punted 55 yards to the F&M 29 where Donofrio returned the punt to the F&M 44.
The rest of the drive belonged to Harner as he rushed from the F&M 45 to the Oberlin 45 on third-and-nine for a first down. Following a rush for no gain by Stephen, Harner hit the senior tailback for four yards to the Oberlin 40 before scrambling 10 yards for a first down to the Oberlin 30. Stephen rushed for three yards to the Oberlin 27 on first down, and Harner ran for nine yards on fourth-and-seven to the Oberlin 18 before being tackled by Yeomen linebacker Vance Murphy. On the tackle, Oberlin received a personal foul to place the ball at the Yeomen nine-yard line with an F&M first down.
Franklin & Marshall cashed in on the opportunity as Stephen rushed for four yards before breaking through the line on second-and-goal for a five yard touchdown run to make the score 28-14 with 3:10 left in the first half and cap a 12 play, 56 yard drive.
The lead grew to 31-14 prior to halftime as Eggertsson drove a 45-yard field goal through the uprights as time expired. Historically, the field goal marked the fourth longest recorded field goal in program history trailing a 52 yarder by Mark Slevin versus Swarthmore in 1983, a 48-yarder by Mark Slevin versus Ursinus in 1984, a 47 yarder by Slevin in 1984 versus Muhlenberg and ties a 45-yarder by Slevin in 1984 against Georgetown.
Eggertsson tacked on another field goal midway through the third quarter as he connected on a 28-yarder with 4:39 left in the quarter to increase the lead to 34-14.
Overall, it marked the first time the Diplomats made two field goals in a game since Steve Linebaugh '02 made 24 and 16 yarders versus Johns Hopkins in a 21-20 loss on November 4, 2000.
Again Oberlin attempted to answer, but Squatrito was picked off at the F&M 24 by TJ Scanlon (Jr., Avon, NJ/Red Bank Catholic) who returned the interception to the F&M 44. The Diplomats drove deep in Yeomen territory, but a faked field goal pass by Kyle Turner (Fr., Haddonfield, NJ/Haddonfield) to Boyce fell incomplete at the end of the third quarter to set Oberlin up at their own 24 yard line at the start of the fourth quarter.
Oberlin used the opportunity as Squatrito completed passes of 12, 8, 26, 10 and 13 yards to the F&M 7 for a first down. On first down, he rushed for three yards to the F&M 4, but would be the closest the Yeomen got to the endzone as Ryan Sychterz (Jr., Sinking Spring, PA/Holy Name) stopped Oman for no gain and Squatrito's third and fourth down pass attempts fell incomplete.
The Yeomen's defense held F&M to nine total yards on their next drive before Eggertsson punted to the F&M 45. Again, Oberlin failed to take advantage of the opportunity as three straight passes from Squatrito were incomplete before he rushed three yards to the F&M 42 on fourth down.
Oberlin received a break on the Diplomats' first play from scrimmage as running back Rick Dunlap (So., Boothwyn, PA/Garnet Valley) broke through the line and scampered 58 yards to the Yeomen's endzone, but a clipping penalty brought the ball back to the Oberlin 38-yard line. It took F&M just two plays to return to the endzone as Stephen ran for two yards and quarterback Doug Hiltner (Sr., Margate, NJ/Atlantic City) found Boyce with a 36-yard touchdown pass for a 41-14 lead with 8:34 left on the game clock.
The 27-point lead lasted for six seconds as Oberlin kick returner Chris Schubert returned the kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown and the 41-21 final.
On defense, Capone led the way recording seven tackles, including two-for-loss of three yards, while Paul Fields (Fr., Bergenfield, NJ/Bergenfield) and Scanlon notched interceptions.
For Oberlin, linebacker Vinnie Hachigan recorded a game high 11 tackles, including three-for-loss of six yards, a fumble forced and a sack for loss of four yards, while defensive lineman John Ramsier added 10 tackles.
On offense, Squatrito completed 21-of-48 passes for 260 yards and Lewis caught seven balls for 65 yards and a touchdown to lead the Yeomen.
The victory marked the fourth straight win for the Diplomats over the Yeomen following season-opening wins in 2001 (26-14 in Lancaster), 2002 (13-6 in Oberlin, Ohio) and 2003 (30-6 in Lancaster) as Franklin & Marshall held a 110-47 over the life of the four year home-and-away contract.
In addition, the victory marks the Diplomats fourth straight dating back to a 37-17 win at Ursinus College on November 8, 2003 as the streak marks the first time F&M has strung together four consecutive victories since the team won seven straight from week four to ten during a 9-2 season in 1996.
Franklin & Marshall (2-0, 0-0 Centennial Conference) will continue the season on September 18 versus Hobart College at Sponaugle-Williamson Field. Game time is set for 1:00 p.m.