September 4, 2015

Colonels Fall Short in Season Opener at No. 25 Muhlenberg 35-7

WOLnews File Photo
ALLENTOWN, PA – Host No. 25 Muhlenberg College scored 23 unanswered points in the second half to break open a five-point game at the break on way to a 35-7 victory over Wilkes University Friday night in both teams season opener at Scotty Wood Stadium.

Wilkes falls to 0-1 on the year and 5-7 in season opening games in the past twelve seasons. Muhlenberg improves to 1-0 on the young season, tallying its second straight season-opening decision over the Colonels.

Wilkes opened with great field position thanks to a 57-yard kickoff return from River Johnson. The first look at the Colonels offense was short-lived though going just three plays before being forced to punt.

After the Wilkes defense forced a Muhlenberg three and out, the Colonels began its second drive with favorable field position at the Mules 47. Ryan Dailey connected with Nick Brady for 11 yards followed by a five yard run from PJ Incremona and another nine yard completion from Dailey to Jacob Brook as Wilkes moved to the Mules 22. From there the drive stalled and Wilkes decided to run a play on fourth and three, but Dailey’s pass fell incomplete turning the ball over on downs.

The defense came up big again on the Mules second drive forcing its first turnover of the season as Jason Ugwu recovered a fumble setting the offense up at the Muhlenberg 13. Two incomplete passes and a rush for no yards setup a fourth and nine on the Muhlenberg 12. Bryan Mellon came on to try the 29-yard field goal attempt, but the kick sailed wide left and Wilkes was held scoreless deep in Mules territory for a second straight time.

The Muhlenberg offense began to catch rhythm in its next drive using 5:55 over 13 plays covering 80 yards to strike first on the scoreboard. Nick Palladino hit Ryan Delaney for a 13-yard score to give the Mules a 6-0 lead with 1:44 left in the first quarter following a failed two-point conversion.

Wilkes began another promising drive early in the second quarter as Dailey connected with tight end Garrett Armstrong for 20 yards and William Deemer for another 25 yards to move the Colonels down inside the Mules 20. The drive stalled again and Dailey came up a yard short on a fourth and four from the Mules 11 to give the ball back to the hosts for the third time inside the red zone.

Muhlenberg upped its lead to 12-0 on its next drive when Palladino ran on a designed quarterback keeper for a 31-yard touchdown. The extra point attempt was blocked as Muhlenberg settled for its twelve point advantage with 10:22 left in the half.

Wilkes cut the lead to five scoring for the first time in 2015 following another fumble recovery from Ugwu later in the quarter. Dailey hit Aaron Coyne from six yards out for the Wilkes touchdown. Mellon added the extra point to bring Wilkes to within five at 12-7 at the break.

The second half proved to be all Muhlenberg as the hosts scored 23 unanswered points in the final two frames. Another Palladino touchdown pass midway through the third put the Mules ahead 20-7 heading into the final quarter of play.

Wilkes had a chance to put points on the board late in the third, but Dailey was sacked on fourth and goal to end the scoring chance for the Colonels.

Muhlenberg then broke open the game with 54-yard and 35-yard touchdown runs in the fourth to put the game out of reach.

Dailey finished 26-for-50 for 263 yards and one score in the defeat including being sacked three times. The Wilkes offense spread the ball around through the air as eight different Colonel receivers tallied at least one reception. Coyne led the group with four catches for 74 yards and the lone score. Deemer followed with five receptions for 60 yards.

The Wilkes ground game never got going in the contest combining for just 55 total yards. Incremona was the Colonels top rusher finishing with 48 yards on 16 carries.

Tanner Stengel led the Wilkes defense with a career-high 16 tackles including 14 solo stops. Three other Colonels finished with six tackles each including Michael Paskas, Tyheed Jackson and Isaiah Robinson.

Palladino finished the game 19-for-24 for 189 yards and two scores while also rushing for 109 yards and one touchdown.

Wilkes makes its 2015 home debut next Friday hosting Middle Atlantic Conference foe Delaware Valley University at 7:00 p.m. under the lights at Schmidt Stadium.