HUNTINGDON - Junior quarterback Ward Udinksi opened the season in grand fashion as the dual-threat signal caller passed for 339 yards and three touchdowns, and ran for another 57 yards and two more scores to lead Juniata to a convincing 41-20 victory over Thiel.
"The kid is a player, he loves the game of football and he excels at it. He extends plays and makes things happen for us. He was outstanding today and got our season off to a great start," Juniata coach Tim Launtz said.
The Eagles took a 13-7 lead into halftime behind a 21-yard touchdown run by Philipsburg-Osceola grad Michael John and a 10-yard touchdown reception by Glendale grad Ethan Cree. The latter came on a botched play as Udinski dropped the snap on a field goal attempt but extended the play and found Cree in the end zone.
Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich
Juniata’s Michael John runs 21 yards for a TD.
The third quarter saw the Eagles blow the game wide open as the offense put 21 points on the board and scored on all three of its possessions. Udinski ran for scores of eight yards and 25 yards and capped the quarter off with a 31-yard pass to Isaiah Slutter.
The Eagles defense was equally impressive on the day, especially the front seven. Juniata racked up 10 sacks and came close to several more as the line was living in the Thiel backfield. Senior linebacker Kevin Gorman led the way with three sacks while returning all-conference defensive lineman Brandon Felus added two and a half.
"We are very experienced up front and those guys bring it every day. They compete, they never rest and they work extremely hard. I'm very pleased with the way our defensive front showed up today," said Launtz.
Coming off its first three-win season since 2003, expectations are high for Juniata this season. A big win in the season opener only solidifies the rising expectations the program has for 2013.
"I think the program has come to a point where we are staying within a process and gradually evolving and getting better. We need to not look too far ahead and take each game one at a time and continue to improve," said Launtz.
Freshman wideout Aaron O'Brien enjoyed a big college debut, catching four passes for 117 yards and a touchdown while Slutter added 105 yards receiving.
Juniata had opened up a 41-7 early in the fourth quarter before Thiel added a couple late touchdowns to make it a little more respectable.
The Eagles will try to improve to 2-0 next week as they travel to Dickinson College for a 1 p.m. kickoff. Dickinson won last year's matchup 24-17.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Thiel 0 7 0 13 20
Juniata 7 6 21 7 41
J - - John 21 run (Kysor kick), 1:56
T - - Wannamaker 11 run (Fennick kick), 13:15
J - - Cree 10 pass from Udinski (kick failed), 0:50
J - - Udinski 8 run (Kysor kick), 11:58
J - - Udinski 25 run (Kysor kick), 7:11
J - - Slutter 31 pass from Udinski (Kysor kick), 0:59
J - - O'Brien 84 pass from Udinski (Kysor kick), 13:39
T - - Fedzen 58 pass from Radke (Fennick kick), 8:09
T - - Howard 18 pass from Radke (kick failed), 6:30
RUSHING: Thiel - - Potter 12-54, Smith 12- -18, Wannamaker 11-40, Radke 3- -11, Smallwood 1-5. Juniata - - Udinski 12-57, Alston 9-35, John 7-32, McCaulley 5-8, Sweigert 1-6, Mitchell 1-2.
PASSING: Thiel - - Radke 8-14-0-151, Smith 8-17-0-71. Juniata - - Udinski 16-23-0-339, Coyne 3-5-0-36
RECEIVING: Thiel - - Grube 4-29, Blazevich 3-42, Frizzi 3-39, Howard 2-24, Fedzen 1-58, Potter 1-19, Fisher 1-9, Wannamaker 1-2. Juniata - - Slutter 5-108, O'Brien 4-117, Breault 4-74, John 2-36, Alston 1-11, Myers 1-10, Cree 1-10, Mitchell 1-9.
INTERCEPTIONS: Thiel - - none. Juniata - - none.
TEAM STATISTICS T J
First Downs 21 23
Rushes-yards 39-70 35-140
Passing (comp.-att.-int.) 16-31-0 19-28-0
Yards passing 222 375
Total yards 292 515
Fumbles-lost 4-2 3-0
Penalties-yards 6-62 4-38
Punts-avg. 6-41.8 4-39.5