September 6, 2015

Misericordia U Rally Comes Up Short at Utica

Jeff Puckett scored four TD's at Utica
The Misericordia University football team opened the 2015 season with a hard-fought 42-28 loss at Utica, Saturday.

MU quarterback Jeff Puckett had a huge game to start his senior campaign with four touchdowns and 196 yards on 32 carries.

After falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter, the Cougars rallied to score three touchdowns in the second quarter and eventually pulled with six points, 34-28, midway through the fourth quarter.

With Utica facing a fourth-and-five at its own 20 yard line early in the second quarter, the Cougars took advantage of a botched snap on a punt attempt and took over downs inside the Utica five yard line.

Puckett powered into the end zone on first down to get MU on the board and cut the deficit in half, 14-7, with 12:50 remaining in the second quarter.

Utica returned the ensuing kick-off 90 yards for a touchdown and 21-7 lead, but the Cougars responded with a 77-yard scoring drive.

Puckett ignited the drive with a 23-yard gain on third-and-15 and a personal foul on the Utica moved the ball across midfield.

Another Puckett run went for 35 yards and a second personal on the Pioneers set up first and goal at the five yard line.

Puckett punched it in on third-and-one to make it 21-14 with 8:05 to go before halftime.

The Pioneers quickly answered again with a 62-yard TD pass for a 28-14 lead less than a minute later.

Misericordia responded with another lengthy scoring drive.

Mark McMaster hauled in a 12-yard pass on first down and a Ryan Kurtz grab went for 20 yards and a first down in Utica territory.

Kurtz scampered for 19 yards on the next play for a first down at the Utica 28 and Randy Custodio took a shovel pass seven yards.

Following a Utica pass interference penalty in the end zone, Puckett plowed in from two yards out to get MU within 28-21, with 3:12 to go in the quarter.

The Pioneers used a 42-yard completion to move deep into MU territory.

On third-and-one from the MU 11 yard line, Tyler Collins made a TD-saving tackle to set up a first-and-goal from the Misericordia four yard line.

Sean Weg made three consecutive tackles, including the final stop for a one-yard loss to hold the Pioneers to a short field goal and send MU to the locker room down 31-21.

The Cougars were forced to punt on their opening drive of the second half and Utica settled for another short field goal and a 34-21 lead with 10:02 to play in the third quarter.

Misericordia moved to midfield on its next possession, but the drive stalled and Utica took over deep at its own 26 following an MU punt.

The Pioneers held the ball for more than six minutes and marched 72 yards deep into MU territory.

Facing a first-and-goal from their five yard line, the Cougars defense stiffened and Donald Bender stuffed the fourth down play for a one-yard loss as the Cougars took over on downs.

Puckett scrambled for three yards to convert a crucial third-and-three for some breathing room and a first down at the 13 and Juwan Petties-Jackson followed with a sliding catch for a 13-yard gain and a first down at the 28.

Tyler Rowe picked up 17 yards across the middle to convert a third-and-10 for a first down at the Misericordia 45.

On second-and-10, Puckett broke a tackle, bounced outside and raced 44 yards to the Utica 11 yard line.

Puckett picked up 10 more yards on the next play to set up first and goal and powered up the middle on first down to get MU within 34-28 with 9:40 remaining.

After recovering an on-side kick near midfield, the Pioneers converted a fourth-and-three from the MU 28 and took advantage of a pass interference penalty in the end zone to eventually score the clinching touchdown with 5:02 to play.

The Cougars moved 55 yards on nine plays, their final drive stalled at the Utica 22 and the Pioneers ran out the final 1:08.

Matt Martin and Dom Picarillo led the Cougars with 11 tackles each and Weg had eight stops.

Both teams had 23 first downs and the Cougars held a six-second advantage in time of possession, 30:03 to 29:57.

Misericordia will host Lebanon Valley, Saturday.