HUNTINGDON - There was a hot air balloon preparing for flight in the baseball field adjacent to Knox Stadium at the beginning of Juniata College's homecoming football game with Ursinus.
The Eagles were flying high for awhile, too. Chris Curran, though, took the air out of them with four touchdown passes in a 7-minute, 14-second span of the second half and sent Juniata crashing back to earth, 37-27, on a brisk, idyllic Saturday afternoon at the newly dedicated Goodman Field.
Juniata fell to 1-5 overall and 0-5 in the Centennial Conference after opening the season with a win. Three of the Eagles's losses have been by 10 points or less.
"It's definitely really tough. We feel like we're saying every weekend, 'Oh, we're so close, we're so close. We just need to get over the hump. We need to find a way to push through and win one of these games," Eagles quarterback Ward Udinski said.
Udinski passed for 330 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score. Zach McCaulley led Juniata with a hard-earned 51 yards on 13 carries, scoring from 5 yards away with 14:53 left before Curran's final TD pass of the day returned the Bears to a 16-point cushion.
Juniata took a 14-10 lead when Udinsky capped a 10-play, 68-yard drive to open the second half with a 1-yard run.
Ursinus (4-2, 3-2) returned the ensuing kickoff to its own 48, though. Curran took over from there, connecting on four passes covering 42 yards, the final 12 going on a throw to Josh Williams to give the Bears back the lead.
The Bears regained possession at the Juniata 28 when a shotgun snap hit Eagle motion man Quadir Christian and was recovered by Brian Taylor. A bad snap the next time Juniata had the ball put the Eagles in a second-and-25 at its own 5, eventually resulted in a punt from deep in their own end.
Both ultimately resulted in Curran touchdown passes of 38 yards to Jason Golderer and 52 yards to Darius Jones, and, in less than eight minutes, the Eagles' four-point lead had turned into a 17-point deficit.
"We're challenged in some areas, and they took advantage of it. This loss was contributed to in all four areas: offense, defense, coaching and special teams," Juniata coach Tim Launtz said. "We were flat. The thing that could make us a good football team is energy, and we had none of that today."
Ursinus entered the game averaging 250.8 yards passing, 2 more than Franklin & Marshall for the conference lead. Curran was 15-for-24 for 180 yards and no touchdowns in the first half but finished 26-for-47 for 415 yards and four TDs to four different receivers.
"We woke up, and we realized how good of a football team we were playing," Curran said. "They did a really good job getting pressure on me, and they were really shutting down the run in the first half. They let it be known they weren't going to give me time in the pocket. But they wore down. We had to respond, and we did it at the right time."
None of the Bears' second half scoring drives covered more than 55 yards. Ursinus only rushed for 12 yards, and Juniata registered four quarterback hurries, with Jared Shope getting a sack.
"Our defensive line does a good job of getting pressure for us. That alleviates pressure on us having to cover guys, because they have talented wide receivers and guys that can go out and catch the ball," said Eagle linebacker Noah Walstrom, who had a team-high eight tackles. "Everyone's individually responsible. If we play together, we can have success."
Juniata outgained the Bears, 432-427. The Eagles scored on their first two possessions on Scott Andrews field goals of 35 and 24 yards, to grab a 6-0 lead before Ursinus' Eric Boyer booted a 29-yarder to get the Bears on the board.
The Eagles will try to regroup next week when they travel to Muhlenberg.
"We've got four games left. It's not like we're giving up on the season," Udinski said. "We've got a tough one next week, but we think we can push through these next four games and get a couple of wins."
Game notes: Volleyball All-American Colleen Carver, single-season wrestling wins record-holder Shad Hoover, distance runner Jack McCullough and football players Matt Eisenberg and "Moon" Mullen were recognized at halftime. They were inducted in the Juniata College Sports Hall of Fame after the game. ... Andrews' father, Dave, spoke at the intermission as the field was dedicated. Shope had two tackles for loss.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Ursinus3 7 21 6 - 37
Juniata6 0 8 13 - 27
J-Andrews 35 FG, 10:09.
J-Andrews 24 FG, 3:26.
U-Boyer 29 FG, 0:25.1.
U-Curran 1 run (Boyer kick), 6:03.
J-Udinski 1 run (Udinski run), 10:07.
U-Williams 11 pass from Curran (Boyer kick), 6:04.
U-Golderer 38 pass from Curran (Boyer kick), 4:38.
U-Jones 52 pass from Curran (Boyer kick), 2:21.
J-McCaulley 5 run (Andrews kick), 14:53.
U-Rahill 8 pass from Curran (kick failed), 13:50.
J-Jones 10 pass from Udinski (run failed), 7:21.
RUSHING: Ursinus-Ellis 12-32, Conrad 4-(-1), Curran 3-(-6), TEAM 3-(-13). Juniata-McCaulley 13-51, Alston 7-39, Udinski 15-16, John 3-13, TEAM 2-(-17).
PASSING: Ursinus- Curran 26-47-0-415, Giannetti 1-1-0-40. Juniata-Udinski 26-38-1-330.
RECEIVING: Ursinus-Rahill 9-129, Jones 5-90, Ellis 4-30, Golderer 3-83, Williams 3-39, Conrad 2-44. Juniata-Valdeserri 6-78, Myers 6-38, Christian 5-86, Bornman 3-77, Jones 2-18, Alston 2-10, Shuck 1-18, John 1-5.
INTERCEPTIONS: Ursinus-Rountree. Juniata-none.
Third down conv.4-107-15
Fourth down conv.1-42-2
Time of poss.26:3133:29