Turnovers, penalties send Juniata to its third loss
By Brian Carson
For the Mirror
HUNTINGDON — Penalties and turnovers proved to be toxic for Juniata College in a 56-40 loss to Muhlenberg in a Centennial Conference matchup Saturday afternoon at Knox Stadium.
Five turnovers and 16 penalties crippled the Eagles, giving the Mules a short field and plenty of opportunities throughout to salt the game away. Muhlenberg took advantage — scoring 28 of its 56 points off Eagle miscues. The game turned into a shootout with the teams combining for 96 points and 803 total yards.
“We are not a very disciplined football team right now. That has to be addressed and it starts with me,” Juniata coach Tim Launtz said. “We can’t do things that self-inflict harm on our football team. We are inexperienced but the bottom line is we just finished our fourth game and we have to get better. We can’t give the ball away.”
Juniata (1-3, 0-3) jumped out to the early 7-0 lead just 1:14 into the game, marching on a 3-play, 49-yard drive capped by an Austin Montgomery 7-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Brocato on the slant. Montgomery, a Bedford graduate, connected on a 40-yard pass to Central’s Justin Helsel to put the ball on the 9-yard line to key the drive.
Muhlenberg (3-1, 2-1) proceeded to run off 35 unanswered points. A fumble by Juniata gave the Mules the ball on the Eagle 40. Quarterback Mike Hnatkowsky made it 7-7 with a five-yard TD pass to Ryan Curtiss. Muhlenberg took the lead for good at 14-7 when Hnatkowsky snuck it in from the one.
Montgomery tossed his second interception of the game early in the second half, giving the Mules the ball on the Eagle 21. Three plays later, Hnatkowsky threw his second touchdown, hitting Max Kirin for the 9-yard score and the 21-7 lead.
Hnatkowsky made it 28-7 with touchdown pass number three — this one to Nick Savant from 9 yards out with just 23 seconds left in the half. Juniata fumbled the punt return to give Muhlenberg the late score.
The Mules made it 35-7 scoring on their first possession of the second half. Savant ran it in from the 12. Hnatkowsky set up the touchdown with a 45-yard strike to Kirin on a third-and-12.
Juniata halted Muhlenberg’s momentum with a touchdown of its own. Montgomery hit Brocato, for his second TD of the game, in the left corner of the end zone for the 28-yarder, making it 35-14 with just over 10 minutes left in the third quarter.
The Eagles came up with a big play, thanks to cornerback John Michael Maclay of Mifflin County. Maclay blocked the Muhlenberg field goal attempt, Cameron Wood scooped up the ball and scampered 68 yards to daylight — cutting the deficit to 35-20 with 4:38 left in the third.
“We didn’t make any adjustments at halftime because we knew what we needed to do. It’s a 60-minute game and we only played for 30,” Launtz said. “We never gave up. We are a very capable football team. We have to quit giving the ball away, lower our penalties, and play a complete game.”
Muhlenberg capitalized on another Eagle mistake when corner Nate Corver recovered a fumbled punt in the Juniata end zone for the TD and a 42-20 lead with 11:17 left in regulation. Juniata answered with a 12-yard QB draw from Montgomery. The Mules answered right back with an 11-yard sweep for the score by Savant — his third TD of the day.
Juniata collected its second touchdown in the fourth quarter on a 25-yard scoring strike from Montgomery to Vinit Patel with 5:49 left in the game. The Mules followed up with a backbreaking drive through the porous Juniata defense for their final touchdown — a 9-yard pass from Hnatkowsky to Kirin.
The Eagles closed out the scoring with a 22-yard TD pass from Montgomery to Daulton Snyder with 3:38 left.
Montgomery threw for 249 yards and four touchdowns, while Snyder had four receptions for 105 yards to lead the Eagles. Savant had 162 yards rushing and two scores, while Hnatkowsky was 20-of-30 for 224 yards with four touchdown passes for the Mules.
Juniata travels to McDaniel for league action next Saturday. Game time is 1 p.m.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Muhlenberg 14 14 7 21 — 56
Juniata 7 0 13 20 — 40
J–Brocato 7 pass from Montgomery, (Craig kick), 13:46.
M–Curtiss 5 pass from Hnatkowsky, (Spirt kick), 4:55.
M–Hnatkowsky 1 run (Spirt kick), 1:34.
M–Kirin 9 pass from Hnatkowsky (Spirt kick), 10:49.
M–Savant 9 pass from Hnatkowsky (Spirt kick), :23.
M–Savant 12 run (Spirt kick), 14:03.
J–Brocato 28 pass from Montgomery (Craig kick), 10:07.
J–Wood 68 blocked FG return, (kick failed), 4:38.
M–Corvil 0 blocked punt return (Spirt kick), 11:17.
J–Montgomery 12 run (Craig kick), 9:39.
M–Savant 11 run (Spirt kick), 6:19.
J–Patel 25 pass from Montgomery (Craig kick), 5:51.
M–Kirin 9 pass from Hnatkowsky (Spirt kick), 4:11.
J–Snyder 22 pass from Montgomery (pass failed), 3:38.
RUSHING: Muhlenberg–Savant 28-162, Edmond 5-18, Wilczynski 4-14, DeLucas 8-9. Juniata–Lehr 7-30, Montgomery 10-23, Bembry 2-6, Helsel 1-3.
PASSING: Muhlenberg–Hnatkowsky 20-30-224-0, Edmond 1-1-11-0. Juniata–Montgomery 20-35-249-2, Brocato 1-1-40.
RECEIVING: Muhlenberg–Kirin 6-77, Curtiss 6-69, Savant 3-13, Wilczynski 2-33. Juniata–Snyder 4-105, Brocato 4-56, Notestine 4-27, Helsel 3-61.
INTERCEPTIONS: Muhlenberg–Fleming, Corvil.
TEAM STATISTICS M J
First downs 29 17
Rushes-yards 54-217 20-62
Passing (comp.-att.-int.) 21-31-0 21-36-2
Yards passing 235 289
Total yards 452 351
Fumbles-lost 2-2 2-2
Penalties-yards 8-82 16-121
Punts-avg. 3-34.7 5-31.0