COLLEGEVILLE, Pa. – Despite racking up nearly 500 yards of offense, the Ursinus College football team was undone by four untimely turnovers in a 42-28 Centennial Conference loss to Franklin & Marshall on Senior Day.
Sophomore quarterback Thomas Garlick threw for a career-high 398 yards and two touchdowns, but the Diplomats (8-1, 7-1) picked off three passes and returned two for scores, including a back-breaking 89-yard pick-six in the fourth quarter that ended the Bears' comeback hopes. Ursinus (6-3, 5-3) also lost a fumble and twice turned the ball over on downs, preventing the Bears from controlling their own destiny in the race to host the Centennial/MAC Bowl Series.
With the loss, and wins by both Muhlenberg and Susquehanna, Ursinus fell to fifth in the conference standings and will need losses by both teams – plus a win at Dickinson – to qualify for the annual bowl showcase.
Senior Carmen Fortino caught eight passes for 138 yards, including a jaw-dropping 30-yard touchdown that helped the Bears slice the F&M lead to 28-21 with 4:12 to play in the third. But the Diplomats marched right down the field to regain a two-score advantage, and Vincent Speranza's long interception return deep in F&M territory put the game out of reach.
The Diplomats won the battle of the league's top run defense (F&M) against its best rushing attack (Ursinus), holding the Bears to just 90 yards on the ground. On the other side, Taalib Gerald gained 153 yards on 35 carries, scoring a pair of touchdowns.
The Bears got off to a perfect start, traversing 60 yards in just five plays on the game's opening drive, which freshman Samuel Ragland capped with a nine-yard touchdown run two plays after a 49-yard completion from Garlick to Fortino on a deep cross.
After a strip-sack by Joe Granahan set the Dipomats up at the Bears' 24, junior Charles Anderson and senior Cody Richmond sacked Diplomats quarterback Tanner Erisman on back-to-back plays to force a punt.
Ursinus was on the move at the opponent's 45 before Ben Okun stepped in front of Garlick's throw and took it back 55 yards for a 7-7 tie at the 6:07 mark of the first.
Gerald's short TD run gave F&M the lead for good with 10:21 left in the second quarter, and a 43-yard touchdown from Erisman to Dillon Alderfer polished off an 8-play, 95-yard drive for a 21-7 upper hand with 4:27 to go in the half.
The Bears responded with a 65-yard march as Garlick flipped over a defender and into the end zone to bring the home side within 21-14 at the break.
F&M got the ball out of the break and went on a 13-play. 76-yard drive, with Gerald taking it in from a yard out for a 28-14 lead. Ursinus had its answer ready again, this time as Fortino came back for the ball and hauled in a spectacular leaping touchdown catch that trimmed the margin to seven.
The Diplomats, however, went on another long march, this time covering 62 yards in nine plays and upping its advantage to 35-21 on Alderfer's 6-yard TD reception with 14:20 to play in the fourth quarter. Ursinus moved all the way down to the F&M 8 before Garlick followed two incompletions with a pressured toss that Speranza intercepted and returned 89 yards with 10:49 left.
Ursinus moved within 42-28 on Garlick's 24-yard screen pass to Ragland, but a fourth-down pass from the Diplomats 24 was broken up inside the two-minute mark.
Erisman finished 18-of-27 for 233 yards and two touchdowns, both to Alderfer (seven catches, 110 yards).
Garlick completed 28 passes in 55 attempts, the third-most in a single game in school history. He fell two yards shy of the fifth 400-yard passing game by a Bear, but moved up to ninth on the all-time yards list. Garlick rushed for 43 yards and a touchdown, most of it on a 41-yard scamper late in the game.
Fortino registered his sixth 100-yard receiving game of his career in his last home game, vaulting to fifth all-time in catches (112) and seventh in yards (1430). Ragland had six catches for 83 yards, while seniors Jonathan Gerhartz (6 catches, 65 yards) and Shawn Hackett (5 catches, 48 yards) each had strong performances in their home finales.
Senior Brandon Dowd was all over the field with a career-high ten tackles, while Richmond added eight. Sophomore Noah Thomas picked up his team-leading fifth sack, while junior Tyler Gordon had his team-best fourth interception.
Seniors Jamie Casseus (pass break-up), Jared Collins, Jake Zolna, Heath Hidlay (six tackles), Alex Drum, Grant Nulty, Andrew Dalessandro, Demarcus Henry (four tackles), and James Gilette (three stops) also played their final games at Patterson Field.
The Bears conclude their season Saturday, November 11 at Dickinson.