Things go south for Juniata in second half

By Brian Carson

For the Mirror

HUNTINGDON — The Juniata College football team could do no wrong in the first half of its game with Franklin & Marshall. In the second half, the Eagles could do nothing right.

Juniata squandered a 17-7 halftime lead, surrendering 33 unanswered points to the Diplomats in a 40-17 defeat in the Centennial Conference opener for both schools on a chilly, wet Saturday at Knox Stadium.

“We had a great first half. We dealt with a lot of adversity in that first half with two giveaways and two poor punts that didn’t change field position,” Juniata College coach Tim Launtz said. “We tried to tell our players at halftime to look at the big picture. The game is 60 minutes, not 30 minutes.”

Two special teams’ blunders, and two more turnovers, changed the momentum in the second half, allowing F&M (2-0, LC 1-0) to snatch the momentum and send the Eagles to their second straight defeat.

The first was a 22-yard shank punt by Brendan Gardner that gave the Diplomats the ball on Juniata’s 27. Two plays later. K.J. Pretty scored on a 12-yard pass from Tanner Erisman, cutting the Eagle lead to 17-14 with 10:30 left in the third.

Juniata replaced Gardner with Gavin Chambers and his punt was blocked by Stevie Gerovasilis giving the Diplomats possession at the Eagle 17. On the first play of the drive, Kevin Lammers took the end around 17 yards to paydirt. A Drew Tomlinson PAT gave F&M the lead for good at 21-17 with 7:09 left in the third quarter.

“They (punts) absolutely changed the game. On the shanked punt we didn’t get execution there and the blocked punt I don’t know what happened,” Launtz said. “Everything fell apart from that point on.”

A Juniata fumble gave the ball back to the Diplomats and they cashed in on Joe-Hartley Vittoria’s four-yard TD run to extend the lead to 28-17 heading into the fourth.

The adversity continued to snowball against Juniata in the fourth. The Diplomats scored twice on one and 40-yard runs by Keshon Farmer, who finished with 73 yards on 11 carries. Even worse for the Eagles, starting quarterback Austin Montgomery (Bedford) went down with an elbow injury and didn’t return. Launtz had no update on the severity of the injury.

Despite the 33 second-half points, Launtz liked the play of his defense, which allowed only seven points and 86 total yards in the first half.

“Our defense was dead tired. They were out there for the whole second half. We tackled well most of the game until we got tired and that’s when we missed tackles,” Launtz said. “I take my hat off to our defense. They faced so many situations with their backs to the wall and they responded. You can’t be out there as much as they were and continue to have success.”

Offensively, Juniata (0-2, 0-1) was hotter than a grease fire in the first half – racking up 287 yards with touchdowns coming on a 31-yard pass from Montgomery to Shaheed Ross and a 21-yarder to Sean Owens. Ross finished with four grabs for 96 yards. He didn’t have a catch in the second half. Montgomery threw for 229 yards.

“Shaheed can be as good as anybody in this conference. We felt we had some things he could do and he did it. We were very pleased with Rasheed’s game,” Launtz said. “If he continues to improve like that, we are going to have better days.”

In the second half, the Eagle offense managed only 27 yards with zero first downs. Even so, Launtz saw improvement from the Grove City opener to now.

“I thought we improved as a football team from the first game to the second game. We weren’t putting ourselves in positions to make plays. This week we put ourselves in position to make plays, we just didn’t make them all,” Launtz said. “When you’re able to put yourself in position, you’re going to win some football games and we will. This football team doesn’t give up. There are no moral victories. We got beat 40-17, but if we improve as much as we did this week next week, then we’ll be all right.”

Juniata College hosts Ursinus in a Centennial Conference clash on Saturday. Kickoff is at noon.

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Franklin & Marshall 7 0 21 12 — 40

Juniata 3 14 0 0 — 17

First Quarter

FM–Erisman 5 run (Tomlinson kick), 13:02

J–Craig 22 FG, 8:50.

Second Quarter

J–Ross 31 pass from Montgomery (Craig kick), 11:23

J–Owens 21 pass from Montgomery (Craig kick), 5:14

Third Quarter

FM–Pretty 12 pass from Erisman (Tomlinson kick), 10:30

FM–Lammers 17 run (Tomlinson kick), 6:59

FM–Hartley-Vitt 4 run (Tomlinson kick), 3:18

Fourth Quarter

FM–Farmer 1 run (kick blocked), 10:50

FM–Farmer 41 run (kick blocked, 4:39

TEAM STATISTICS FM J

First downs 20 12

Total yards 360 314

Rushes-yards 45-227 27-69

Yards passing 133 245

Passing (comp.-att.-int.) 18-29-2 16-35-1

Punts-avg. 5-34.4 7-22.1

Fumbles-lost 1-0 4-4

Penalties-yards 2-17 1-10

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING–Franklin & Marshall, Farmer 11-73, Hartley-Vittorio 14-70, Erisman 10-35, Harris 8-31, Lammers 1-17, Donaghy 1-1. Juniata, Wertz 7-35, Chalmers 6-15, Montgomery 10-13, Border 2-4, Spencer 1-2, Lauver 1-0.

PASSING–Franklin & Marshall, Erisman 17-28-1-113, Donaghy 1-1-0-20. Juniata, Montgomery, 13-29-1-225, Graham 3-6-0-20.

RECEIVING–Franklin & Marshall, Pretty 7-57, Focht 1-20, Hartley-Vittorio 1-4, Erisman 1-3. Juniata, Ross 4-96, Snyder 3-61, Owens 3-33, Brocato 2-25, Bargo 1-13, Walter 1-11, Wertz 1-5, Border 1-1.

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