ALLENTOWN, Pa. – The Ursinus College football team nearly drove down for a game-tying touchdown in the final minute, but a Muhlenberg interception ended the Bears' comeback hopes and their perfect season with a 21-14 defeat.
Muhlenberg (4-2, 3-2) scored on an Ursinus miscue and rode its defense to an emotional victory that came three days after longtime head coach Mike Donnelly lost his battle with leukemia.
Ursinus (5-1, 4-1), which was just outside the top-25 in both national polls entering Saturday, fell into a three-way tie with Johns Hopkins and Franklin & Marshall for first place in the Centennial Conference standings.
The Mules drove 77 yards in six plays on their opening possession, taking a 7-0 lead on a 1-yard sneak by Michael Hnatkowsky. Muhlenberg had its sights set on a 14-0 lead on its next trip before junior safety Tyler Gordon picked off Hnatkowsky's pass in the end zone.
Muhlenberg ultimately did grab a 14-point lead when Nate Corvil fell on a muffed punt in the end zone early in the second quarter.
Back came the Bears, who sliced the margin in half when sophomore quarterback Thomas Garlick weaved his way through the Muhlenberg defense on his way to a 50-yard touchdown run, the longest of his career.
Gordon came up huge for Ursinus again later in the stanza, picking off another deep pass to the end zone for his first career multi-interception performance.
The squads traded punts until late in the third, when a 33-yard punt return by Brad Ramirez set the Mules up at the Bears' 17. Five plays later, Hnatkowsky scored from three yards out on third-and-goal to make it 21-7 with 4:16 to play in the period.
Ursinus pulled within a touchdown on sophomore Stacey Gardner's 11-yard touchdown run with an even 14:00 to go. The Bears forced a punt, but their drive stalled at their own 40, and Muhlenberg ran off all but 1:14 with a pair of first downs.
Backed up at their own 19, the Bears marched all the way to the Muhlenberg 34 following a fourth-down completion from Garlick to senior Jonathan Gerhartz. But Garlick's heave with about 30 seconds left was picked off by Joseph O'Hagan and Muhlenberg went into victory formation.
Muhlenberg racked up 214 yards on the ground, led by 118 from Matthew Stickney and 63 more from Hnatkowsky. Mickey Kober had 11 tackles for a defense that sacked Garlick three times.
Garlick finished 19-of-27 for 182 yards, 95 of them to Gerhartz on four hook-ups; Gerhartz, who had 93 yards a week ago, caught a 63-yard bomb early in the second. Garlick also rushed 17 times for 79 yards and the electrifying score, while Gardner had 47 yards on 11 carries.
The football team will resume CC play at Susquehanna on Saturday, October 21.