LANCASTER, PA - Franklin & Marshall College tailback Scott Stephen (Jr., Glen Rock, NJ/Glen Rock) ran for 141 yards and tossed two touchdowns to factor in all of the Diplomats' scoring as Franklin & Marshall (4-6, 3-3 Centennial Conference) closed out the 2003 football season with a 14-13 victory over Gettysburg College (5-5, 2-4 Centennial Conference).
Trailing 3-0 in the opening minutes of the second quarter, Stephen completed a one-yard pass to All-America wide receiver Justin Salton (Sr., Gillette, NJ/Watchung Hills) on fourth-and-goal to put the Diplomats in front 7-3 with 13:06 left in the first half. He completed his second pass of the game with 10:36 left in the fourth quarter as he found tightend Dan Houseman (Sr., Wyomissing, PA/Wyomissing) in the right corner of the endzone for a two-yard TD reception for all the Diplomats needed to record the win and even the series record at 41-41-7.
The victory marks the Diplomats second straight over the Bullets following a 20-14 win to conclude last season in which Stephen ran for 213 net yards. Further, the victory marks the Diplomats second straight of the season as Franklin & Marshall defeated Ursinus 37-17 last week in Collegeville, Pennsylvania. The back-to-back victories mark the first time the Diplomats have closed out the season with a pair of wins since the 1995 team edged Johns Hopkins (27-22 W) and Gettysburg (14-10 W) to win the program's most recent Centennial Conference Championship.
In addition, with the win the Diplomats clinched fourth place in the Centennial Conference and gave F&M three Conference wins for the first time since 1998 (4-3) and three home victories in a season for the first time since 1997. In 1997, the Diplomats knocked off Muhlenberg (14-10 W), Swarthmore (41-0 W) and Gettysburg (27-18 W) at Williamson Field.
Further, with the loss Gettysburg continued a streak in which the Bullets have failed to record a winning season since 1995 and continued droughts in which the Bullets have not won back-to-back games in Lancaster since 1956 and 1958, and has won once (24-16 W in 2001) in Lancaster since 1982.
Salton finished the game with six catches for 46 yards to finish the season with a school and Centennial Conference record 84 catches for 968 yards, eclipsing the previous CC and Franklin & Marshall record of 77 catches that he established last season. In addition, he closes his career with 241 catches for 3,146 yards to establish new Centennial Conference, Franklin & Marshall and Eastern College Athletic Conference records in career receptions.
In addition, he moved into sole possession of sixth place in Centennial Conference history in career TD receptions as the fifth-year senior finished with 23 in his career.
Overall, Franklin & Marshall held an advantage in first downs (18-to-17), rushing attempts (54-to-42), yards gained rushing (217-to-185), net yards rushing (187-to-164), total offensive plays (79-to-65) and time of possession (32:51-to-27:09), while Gettysburg held advantages in net passing yards (145-to-107), kickoff return yards (113-76) and net yards (309-to-294).
The Bullets took an early lead as Franklin & Marshall quarterback Jeff Harner (Fr., Mohrsville, PA/Schuylkill Valley) fumbled on third-and-six at his own 23 on the opening drive of the game. Gettysburg's Grant Acker recovered the loose ball to set the Bullets up deep in F&M territory with 13:07 left in the first quarter. However, the Diplomats recovered the ball two plays later as Gettysburg quarterback Joe Gossweiler's first pass from scrimmage was picked off at the F&M 8 by Matt Pastore (Fr., Ridgewood, NJ/Peddie School), but the Diplomats moved the ball six yards before a 39 yard punt by Dan Eggertsson (Jr., Royal Palm, FL/Suncoast) gave Gettysburg the ball on the Bullets 47.
The Bullets cashed in on the solid field position as John Edgar split the uprights on a 32-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead with 6:30 left in the first quarter.
Trailing 7-3 following Stephen's touchdown pass to Salton at 13:06 of the second quarter, Gettysburg's Nate Smith returned Eggertsson's kickoff 60 yards to the F&M 29 to give the Bullets solid field position.
Following back-to-back gains of four and one yard by fullback Matt Cardillo, Gossweiler scampered six and 11 yards to move the ball to the F&M 18 and give the Bullets a first down. Gentris Bryant rushed for two yards and Cardillo broke through the line for another yard before Gossweiler's third-and-goal attempt to AJ Sutsko fell incomplete forcing Gettysburg to accept a 21 yard field goal by Edgar to move within a point of the Diplomats at 7-6 with 9:58 until halftime.
The Bullets' pass offense exploded on Gettysburg's second drive of the third quarter as Gossweiler connected with Nick Nocar on a 61-yard completion on first-and-goal from the Bullets' 34-yard line to move the ball to the F&M 5. Nocar turned the corner and broke the goal line on the next play for a 12-7 Bullets' lead. Gossweiler's two-point conversion attempt to Sutsko was successful, but an ineligible receiver down field moved the ball back to the F&M 8 where Edgar knocked through the extra point for a 13-7 Bullets' lead.
Gettysburg had a chance to score on their next possession, but Edgar's field goal attempt from 37-yards fell well short with 6:31 left in the quarter to close an eight play, 66 yard drive.
Franklin & Marshall went three-and-out on their next possession before punting to the Gettysburg 49-yard line. Possessing good field position, Gettysburg moved the ball to the F&M 30 where they faced fourth and five. Looking to move the chains, Gossweiler attempted to thread a pass to inside the 10-yard line, but Chris Smyth (Fr., West Chester, PA/Cardinal O'Hara) corralled the ball at the F&M 7 with 2:56 left in the quarter for his second interception of the year to begin the Diplomats second scoring drive.
Franklin & Marshall struggled early in the drive as the Diplomats were forced to punt on fourth-and-two at their own 15-yard line. However, a defensive offside penalty moved the ball to the F&M 20 and kept the drive alive.
Harner ran for seven yards and completed a 15-yard pass to wideout Matt Wagaman (Sr., Lititz, PA/Warwick) to move the ball to the F&M 38 before Stephen broke loose for a 26-yard gain to the Gettysburg 36. Fullback Nick Euculano (So., Wrightsville, PA/Eastern York) leaned forward for one yard and Stephen inched forward for three yards before Harner connected with Salton for an eight-yard gain to the Gettysburg 24 and a first down. Euculano gained three yards before the Bullets were called for pass interference on a second-and-seven attempt from Harner to Salton to move the ball to the Gettysburg six-yard line. On second-and-goal, Stephen ran for four yards before connecting with Houseman on third-and-goal for the go-ahead and game winning score to cap a 16 play, 93 yard drive which chewed up 5:52 from the game clock.
The Bullets challenged for the remainder of the game as the Bullets went 44 yards on nine plays before turning the ball over on downs at the F&M 30 on their next drive. Again, the Diplomats could not move the ball as the team went 29 yards on eight plays before Eggertsson made the play of the game connecting on a 40-yard punt which bounced and went out-of-bounds at the Gettysburg one-yard line to force the Bullets to go 99 yards in 3:23.
Overall, Eggertsson finished the game with five punts for an average of 38.4 yards per kick to finish the season as the Centennial Conference statistical leader in the category with a 36.9-yard average.
The Bullets again fought back as Gossweiler connected with Nocar on a 13-yard completion for a first down at the Gettysburg 14. His next two passes were incomplete before he rushed three yards to the Gettysburg 17 where the Diplomats took a face mask penalty on the tackle which moved the ball to the Gettysburg 22.
On third-and-goal from the 22, Gossweiler's pass fell incomplete but Franklin & Marshall College was called for pass interference which moved the ball to the Gettysburg 31. On first-and-10 from the 31 with 1:03 left on the game clock, Gossweiler was stripped of the ball by linebacker Andy Rehring (Sr., State College, PA/State College) as the fumble was recovered by linebacker Chris White (Sr., Vestal, NY/Vestal) at the Gettysburg 36 to finish off the game and the season as the Diplomats ran out the clock.
Rehring led the Diplomats with 12 tackles, including one for loss of a yard, while linebacker Matt Capone (Jr., Scarsdale, NY/Scarsdale) finished second with eight hits. For Gettysburg, Michael Schmidt led all tacklers with 18 hits, with six solo hits, to pace four Bullets in double-digit tackles (Nate Smith 14, Grant Acker 13, Chris Jordan 11).
On offense for the Bullets, Gossweiler completed eight-of-23 for 145 yards with two interceptions and ran 13 times for 49 yards to pace the Bullets. On the ground, Matt Cardillo finished with 66 yards on 16 carries as Gettysburg finished with 164 rushing yards.
Franklin & Marshall will open the 2004 season on September 4, 2004 at home versus Bethany (WV) College. Kickoff is set for 1:00 p.m. at Williamson Field.