LANCASTER, PA - Defensive lineman Matt Capone (Sr., Scarsdale, NY/Scarsdale) recovered a fumble in the end zone after linebacker Joe LoCastro (Jr., Cherry Hill, NJ/Camden Catholic) sacked Ursinus College quarterback Vince Gallagher at the two yard line with 7:54 remaining in the fourth quarter as Franklin & Marshall (6-3, 3-2 Centennial Conference) rallied from a 21-14 deficit in the fourth quarter to defeat Ursinsus (1-8, 0-5 Centennial Conference) 28-21 in Centennial Conference action.
The win keeps Franklin & Marshall in the Centennial Conference championship hunt as the Diplomats, Johns Hopkins, Muhlenberg and Dickinson are all one game back of McDaniel College. If Johns Hopkins defeats McDaniel next week, the Diplomats will earn a share of the CC crown.
Against Ursinus, LoCastro dominated the Bears offense recording a team high eight tackles, including two for loss of 17 yards and 1.5 sacks for 17 yards, broke up two passes and forced a fumble to lead to a touchdown as the Diplomats won their sixth game of the season for the first time since a 9-2 record in 1996.
The Diplomats game-winning defensive play came as punter Dan Eggertsson (Sr., Royal Palm, FL/Suncoast) launched a 43-yard punt to the Ursinus 10 where kick returner Adam Schmidt fumbled the ball following a hit by Ryan Sychterz (Jr., Sinking Spring, PA/Holy Name). However, Ursinus' Matt Duppel recovered the fumble at the Ursinus 10 to set the Bears up deep in their own territory with eight minutes left on the clock.
On first-and-10, Gallagher rolled right before LoCastro wrapped him up causing a fumble at the two yard line as the ball rolled into the end zone where Capone fell on the loose ball for a touchdown with 7:54 left on the game clock. Eggertsson tacked on the extra point for a 28-21 lead.
The Bears attempted to rally on the ensuing kickoff as Ursinus started their drive a their own 30 yard line. Facing first-and-10 from the F&M 48 yard line, Gallagher dropped back and tossed a spiraling pass to the F&M 20 where Chris Santaniello (So., Somers Point, NJ/Mainland) picked off the ball to close out the Bears eight play, 22 yard drive which drained 3:39 off the game clock.
Franklin & Marshall moved the ball out to their own 39 yard line before Eggertsson punted to the Ursinus 21 where Schmidt returned the kick to set the Bears up a the Ursinus 41 with 55 seconds remaining on the game clock.
Gallagher attempted to rally the team hitting Kieran Gorman for a 10 yard gain to the F&M 49, Ernest Pearson for a two yard gain to the F&M 47 and Brandon Evans for a four yard pick-up to the F&M 43. Facing third-and-four, Gallagher's next pass was intercepted by Tim Barry (Jr., Madison, NJ/Madison) at the F&M 26 as he returned the kick out to the F&M 34 with 25 seconds remaining on the clock. Quarterback Jeff Harner (So., Mohrsville, PA/Schuylkill Valley) took a knee on first down to seal the win for Franklin & Marshall College.
The Diplomats jumped out to an early lead in the game as Curtis Varner (So., State College, PA/State College) returned Ursinus' placekicker James Texeira's kickoff 37 yards to the Ursinus 44 yard line on the opening play of the game.
Starting quarterback Doug Hiltner (Sr., Margate, NJ/Atlantic City) hit wide receiver Derek Boyce (Jr., Lancaster, PA/Lampeter-Strasburg) for a 19 yard gain on first down before tailback Scott Stephen (Sr., Glen Rock, NJ/Glen Rock) picked up two yards down to the Ursinus 23 yard line. Following back-to-back incomplete passes, Hiltner connected with wide receiver Bobby Freiler (So., Orwigsburg, PA/Blue Mountain) for a 12 yard gain down to the Ursinus 11. Following a four yard rush by fullback Rick Dunlap (So., Boothwyn, PA/Garnet Valley) down to the Ursinus 7, Stephen broke through the line for a touchdown with 12:48 left in the first quarter. Eggertsson tacked on the extra point as the Diplomats jumped out to a 7-0 lead.
For the year, the game marked the first time F&M scored on their first possession and went on to the win game as Franklin & Marshall scored on the team's first drive against Carnegie Mellon and Johns Hopkins, but lost both games.
The Bears fired back as Gallagher led a five play, 55 yard drive before connecting with Steve Phillips in the end zone for a 31 yard TD to knot the score at 7-7 with 11:08 left in the quarter.
Franklin & Marshall countered as Stephen rushed three times for 20 yards and Dunlap added two rushes for seven yards before Hiltner found wide receiver Chris Wagner (Fr., Media, PA/Penncrest) for a 20 yard touchdown to close out a five play, 47 yard drive with 8:33 left in the first quarter.
The Diplomats looked to add to the lead on their next possession as F&M moved 26 yards on four plays for a first down at the Ursinus 40 yard line before Mike Kimpel sacked Hiltner and forced a fumble at the Ursinus 45. Nate Wagner recovered the ball at the Ursinus 36, however the Bears could not capitalize on the turnover as the F&M defense stiffened.
On first-and-10 from the Ursinus 49 yard line, Gallagher was sacked for a loss of nine yards by Justin Koch (Sr., Schuylkill Haven, PA/Schuylkill Haven) and LoCastro. Following a five yard offsides penalty on F&M, Chris Stepien (Jr., Fairfield, NJ/West Essex) dropped Phillips in the backfield for a loss of one yard to bring up third-and-15. Gallagher's pass attempt fell incomplete inducing a 53 yard punt by James Sproule to the F&M endzone.
Starting at their own 20 yard line, the Diplomats moved the ball out to the 25 before Eggertsson booted a 37 yard punt to the F&M 45, which Schmidt returned 17 yards to the F&M 28.
Facing a short field, Gallagher connected with Mike Weyrauch for a three yard gain on first down and hit the receiver again for a 25 yard touchdown on third down with 57 seconds remaining in the quarter to knot the score at 14-14.
The Bears would take the lead early in the second quarter as Hiltner's third-and-two pass attempt from the F&M 40 was intercepted by Ryan VanWright at the F&M 41 and returned down to the F&M 13 on the first play of the new quarter.
Gallagher did not need long to convert on the field position as he hit Gorman for a four yard gain and Brendon Evans rushed for a six yard pickup before breaking through the line for a three-yard TD run with 14:34 to go in the first half for a 21-14 Ursinus lead.
Franklin & Marshall had a shot to tie the score before halftime as the Diplomats stopped Gallagher short on fourth-and-one from the F&M 17 with 1:14 remaining in the second quarter.
Hiltner then moved the Diplomats down to the Ursinus 17 with five seconds to go in the half, but the Bears sniffed a faked field goal out as Ursinus tackled holder Kyle Turner (Fr., Haddonfield, NJ/Haddonfield) for a 13 yard loss to close the half.
Neither team cracked the scoring column in the third quarter as Harner entered the game for Hiltner with 5:44 left in the quarter.
F&M regained possession of the ball to begin the fourth quarter as James Sproule punted 29 yards to the Ursinus 45 on the first play of the period to set the Diplomats up in solid field position.
The Diplomats did not need long to convert on the opportunity as wide receiver Robert Donofrio (So., Sea Girt, NJ/Wall Township) took a reverse 22 yards down to the Bears 23. Harner then connected with Dunlap for an 11 yard gain and Stephen scampered 12 yards into the end zone on first-and-12 to knot the game at 21-21 with 14:15 remaining in the game.
Both teams exchanged a pair of possessions over the next 6:15 before LoCastro sacked Gallagher for the game-winning TD.
Overall, Hiltner (8-for-17, 129 yards, 1 INT, 1 TD) and Harner (6-for-12, 81 yards) combined to complete 14-of-29 attempts for 210 yards, while Boyce led the way with five catches for 84 yards.
On the ground, Stephen rushed 26 times for 114 net yards with two touchdowns as the Diplomats racked up 159 yards on 43 carries to finish the game with 369 yards of total offense on 72 plays.
Historically, with his performance against Ursinus, Stephen boosted his career total to 591 carries for 2,069 yards as he joins Andy Surtz '97 (705 carries for 2,913 yards) as the only F&M players with 2,000+ rushing yards. In addition, Stephen has also caught 37 passes for 365 yards and completed 25-of-76 passing attempts for 299 yards with four touchdowns as he was the Diplomats' starting quarterback as a freshman.
Defensively, the Diplomats broke up 10 passes, intercepted two more and recorded five sacks as F&M limited Ursinus to 47 rushing yards on 31 attempts and permitted Gallagher to connect on 22-of-45 attempts for 212 yards.
For the Bears, Gorman led the way withy six receptions for 69 yards, while Wagner added 13 tackles, including one for loss of 10 yards, and a fumble recovery.
Franklin & Marshall (6-3, 3-2 Centennial Conference) will complete the regular season schedule on November 13 at Gettysburg. Game time is set for 1:00 p.m.