Happy Labor Day everyone! Hopefully you are enjoying a restful holiday weekend and have had a chance to get caught up on all of the Bison sports action from over the weekend. Here are some of the highlights.
FOOTBALL opened up the 2016 season with a 26-10 victory at Marist on Saturday night. There were some excellent performances in all three phases of the game, but the defense wrote many of the headlines with six takeaways and six sacks. Marist came out in a warp-speed, hurry-up offense with the intention of causing chaos and eventually wearing down the vaunted Bison defense. The Red Foxes did move the ball at times, but the defense came up with big play after big play and conceded only one field goal and one touchdown all night.
At one point in the second quarter, the Bison intercepted passes on three straight series. They had five takeaways in the first half alone, including a terrific diving pick by Nick O’Brien on the goal line, and then a sixth in the fourth quarter on what will undoubtedly be one of the top plays of the season.
With still about nine minutes remaining in the game, Bucknell’s lead was 23-10 and Marist was driving. On the fifth play of the series, quarterback Mike White connected with Lawrence Dickens on a pass over the middle at the 5-yard line. Bison cornerback Bryan Marine made initial contact, and as Dickens tried to backpedal to the goal line, Marine just ripped the ball out of his hands and took off the other way. This video clip finishes with a look at the remarkable play.
— John Bowes (@JohnBowes3) September 4, 2016
Another key play happened moments later, after Bucknell was forced to punt. Standing with his heels on the back of the end zone, punter Alex Pechin bombed one 60 yards with no return, flipping the field position around. The defense stopped them on fourth down, and then Pechin drilled a career-long 46-yard field goal to make it 26-10 with 1:10 remaining.
Offensively, Bucknell did most of its damage on the ground. In his first start at tailback, sophomore Joey DeFloria ran for 145 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries. When DeFloria needed a blow in the second half, freshman Chad Freshnock came in and ran for another 51 yards on 12 totes. He had a couple of 10-yard gains early in the fourth quarter that helped set up another Pechin field goal.
The biggest play in the passing game came early in the second quarter, and it was kind of a neat story. Junior Jack Horan had been a backup quarterback until about two weeks ago, when he switched to wide receiver during preseason camp. He worked his way into the rotation, and then with 13:45 left in the second quarter he burned his defender and hauled in a 71-yard TD reception that gave Bucknell a 14-3 lead.
All told, a good start to the season. It’s always nice to be 1-0. Up next is a Duquesne team that is the is the preseason favorite and defending champion in the Northeast Conference. The Dukes lost their opener to Youngstown State, 45-10 on Thursday. Bucknell will be looking to avenge last season’s 26-7 loss to Duquesne.
Elsewhere from last week, WOMEN’S SOCCER is still unbeaten (4-0-1) after picking up a quality 2-1 road win over Syracuse followed by a 1-1 draw with Rider on Sunday. Kendall Ham, the Patriot League Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, joined Maddie Dano in the scoring column against the Orange. Dano’s tally came on a spectacular “Olimpico” — a goal coming on a shot directly in from a corner kick. Check it out here:
— Bucknell WSoccer (@Bucknell_WSOC) September 2, 2016
Kendall Ham scored the second-half equalizer against Rider, with her twin sister Jackie along with Alexis Gannon teaming up for the assists on the play. Kelly Cook’s team is playing an exciting brand of soccer, and they will be back home again on Friday night against Mount St. Mary’s.
MEN’S SOCCER has a lot of new faces on the pitch this fall, and they picked up their first win on Sunday, 2-1 over Sacred Heart at Vermont’s tournament. Andrew Leischner scored the opening goal, and then after the Pioneers tied it, Zack Rockmore converted a penalty kick in the 83rd minute.
MEN’S WATER POLO had a strong opening weekend, finishing 2-1 at the Bruno Classic, hosted by Brown. The Bison, ranked 18th nationally, swept MIT (15-8) and No. 20 St. Francis Brooklyn (7-6) on Saturday, then fell 15-7 to No. 4 Pacific on Sunday. In the St. Francis game, the Bison trailed 6-3 at the half, then shut out the Terriers in the second half while storming back to win 7-6. The winning goal came from freshman Rade Joksimovic with 31 seconds left in regulation. Earlier in the day, Joksimovic, the latest member of Bucknell’s Serbian connection, scored seven goals in his collegiate debut against MIT. He finished with a team-high 10 goals on the weekend.
VOLLEYBALL had a thrilling four-set win over Coppin State on Friday night at the Duquesne/Robert Morris Tournament in Pittsburgh. All four sets were decided by two points, with each of the first three going beyond the 25 points needed to win. Blake Buchholz had 21 kills and 12 digs, and Hailey Stout added 16 kills and 18 digs in the victory. The Bison then fell to the two host schools on Saturday, with the Robert Morris contest decided at 18-16 in the fifth set.
FIELD HOCKEY had a challenging road trip and fell twice to Saint Joseph’s and No. 15 Princeton over the weekend, on the heels of a season-opening 2-0 win over Rutgers. Incidentally, since losing at Graham Field, the Scarlet Knights have bounced back with dominant wins over VCU and William & Mary as well as a 3-2 overtime loss at No. 5 Virginia.
MEN’S GOLF improved in each round at Colgate’s Alex Lagowitz Memorial Invitational and finished sixth out of 13 teams. Sophomore J.P. Raftery shot 74-72-74 to lead the Bison and finish T-5th in the tournament. When we last saw J.P., he was finishing second at the Patriot League Championship en route to PL Rookie of the Year honors last April. He picked right up where he left off, first winning Bucknell’s 54-hole team qualifier at 2-under-par, and then posting at top-five finish at Colgate. J.P. is part of a terrific sophomore class, and it looks like they will be joined by another young talent in freshman Peter Bradbeer. Peter played as an individual at Colgate and finished T-8th in his debut with rounds of 76-71-74. The Bison will host their annual invitational coming up next weekend at the Bucknell Golf Club.
MEN’S & WOMEN’S CROSS COUNTRY put on their uniforms for the first time in 2016, hosting Susquehanna and Juniata for the low-key Bison Opener. As coach Kevin Donner likes to say, this meet serves as an excellent “rust-buster.” Led by senior Ross Pirnie, the 2016 Patriot League steeplechase champion, the men’s squad posted the top 13 finishers in a three-mile race. The women had the first 11 finishers, led by senior Kate Scott, who won the Patriot League 10,ooo meters last spring and was runner-up at the 2015 PL Cross Country Championship.
Plenty more to come this week, including the fell debuts for men’s and women’s tennis at the Bucknell Fall Invitational, and home games for women’s soccer and field hockey. Visit BucknellBison.com or download the official Bison Athletics app for all the scores and schedules.