COLLEGEVILLE, Pa. – Franklin & Marshall defeated Ursinus 42-28 in Centennial Conference (CC) football action Saturday afternoon. With the win, F&M improved to 8-1, 7-1 CC while the Bears dropped to 6-3, 5-3 CC. The win secures F&M a postseason berth for the sixth time in the last nine seasons.
The Diplomats are tied with Johns Hopkins entering the final week of action, but the Blue Jays own the tiebreaker with a victory over F&M earlier this season. A win by both the Blue Jays and F&M would result in Co-Champions, but the Blue Jays would receive the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. That would make F&M the next highest remaining team in the Conference which gives the Diplomats the top seed in the MAC-CC Bowl with a chance of getting an at-large to the NCAA Tournament. A Hopkins loss combined with an F&M victory would give the Diplomats the Conference Championship outright and the automatic bid.
The Bears went ahead 7-0 on their first series and were poised to tack on more points two series later when Ben Okun picked off a pass from Thomas Garlick and raced 55 yards to the end zone to tie the game at 7-7 and jump start a 21-0 F&M run. Taalib Gerald put the go-ahead score on the board when he scored on a two-yard jaunt early in the second quarter to cap off a 7-play, 49-yard drive.
On F&M's next series, the Diplomat took over on their own 5-yard line, marched 95 yards down the field on eight plays and scored when Tanner Erisman found Dillon Alderfer for a 43-yard touchdown to put F&M up 21-7 The Bears tacked on seven towards the end of the second to come within a score, 21-14, at the break.
F&M received the kickoff to start the second half and put together a 13-play, 76-drive that took 6:28 off the clock. The drive featured two third down conversions and was finished off when Gerald dove in from a yard out to put F&M ahead 28-14. Ursinus countered on their ensuing drive to come within seven, 28-21, heading into the fourth quarter.
Erisman found Alderfer on a six-strike to end a 62-yard scoring drive that gave the Diplomats a 35-21 advantage early in the fourth. Ursinus looked to answer and come within a score as the Bears marched down to the F&M 11-yard line. However, on third-and-goal Vincent Speranza picked off Garlick and raced 89 yards to the house to make it a three-score game, 42-21, with 10:49 left to play. The Bears scored on their next series to make it 42-28 and the F&M defense stepped up down the stretch and kept Ursinus out of the end zone to secure the win.
Tanner Erisman completed 18-of-27 passes for 233 yards and two scores. Dillon Alderfer was the top target with seven grabs for 110 yards and two touchdowns. Kevin Lammers had four grabs for 49 yards and K.J. Pretty ended with two catches for 28 yards.
Taalib Gerald had 153 yards on 35 rushes with two touchdowns and added 40 more on three receptions. He is now just one rushing touchdown shy of setting the school record and two away from tying the points and touchdown record. Keith Wert '78 owns the rushing touchdown record at 28 while Dale Amos '90 hold the total touchdown and points mark.
Ben Okun led the defense with seven solo tackles, including two for a loss and one assist. He also recorded a sack, a forced fumble, a pass breakup and had one interception that he returned 55 yards for a touchdown. Vincent Moffett had eight tackles (6s) and Mekhi Holley along with Joe Granahan both ended with seven stops each. Granahan had a sack and forced a fumble while Holley was in on a sack with Sebastian Silva-Muniz. Vincent Speranza added a pick and returned it for an 89-yard score and Jeff Leone as finished the game with an interception for F&M.
The Diplomats end the regular season next Saturday when F&M hosts Gettysburg at 1:00 p.m.