COLLEGEVILLE, Pa. – A shutout and a postseason berth, largely orchestrated by its fourth-year players. The Ursinus College football team could hardly have hoped for more on Senior Day.
Seniors Alec Vera and Jacob Clifford each caught a touchdown pass and classmate Charles Anderson played a huge role in a dominant defensive performance as the Bears (7-3, 6-3) blanked Dickinson by a 31-0 count on a windswept Patterson Field. With the victory, Ursinus clinched a spot in the Centennial/MAC Bowl Series next Saturday against an opponent to be determined.
Junior Jacob McCain piled up a game-high 16 tackles and was one of three players to record an interception for the Bears, who stifled the Red Devils (4-6, 4-5) to a mere 185 yards of total offense in the squad's first shutout since a 24-0 whitewashing of Moravian in 2014.
Juniors Noah Thomas (1.5 sacks) and Zach Goss also had interceptions, while Anderson posted nine tackles (1.5 for loss) and a half-sack. Ursinus racked up nine tackles for loss and held Dickinson to a single third-down conversion in 12 attempts.
With gusting winds wreaking havoc on any airborne ball, the Bears leaned on their typically effective ground game to grind out enough offense to pull away in the second half. Sophomore Kyle Wiggins rushed for a career-high 106 yards on just nine carries, including a 68-yard touchdown to cap off the scoring early in the fourth quarter. Classmate Samuel Ragland registered his 14th rushing touchdown of the season for Ursinus.
The wind was the clear winner of the first quarter, largely forcing both teams into punts on first seven possessions of the game.
It was a spectacular play by McCain that got the Bears untracked, the linebacker picking an interception off the turf with an incredible diving catch to set the hosts up at the Dickinson 45. Wiggins picked up 21 yards on a 3rd-and-10, and two plays later Ragland broke out of an ankle tackle to scamper in for a 9-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead with 13:21 remaining in the second stanza.
The Bears took to the air to double the spread just before halftime, gaining possession on the Red Devils' 44 after forcing a short punt. It only took two plays for Garlick to get into the end zone, hitting Clifford for a 29-yard strike in the back corner of the end zone at the 1:04 mark.
Ursinus brought about a three-and-out on the first possession of the second half, helped out by back-to-back stops in the backfield by junior Brett Capobianco and Thomas. Starting their next drive at the plus-27, the Bears made it 21-0 on Vera's incredible catch in tight coverage on 3rd-and-11 from the 28.
An 11-play, 57-yard drive culminated in senior Kirk Cherneskie's 29-yard field goal to put Ursinus up 24-0. Wiggins polished off the rout with a scintillating run, bouncing outside before outrunning the rest of the defense down the right sideline for a career-long touchdown with 10:30 left on the clock.
Garlick finished 8-of-20 for 118 yards and two touchdowns, moving to sixth in school history with 31.
Vera hauled in four receptions for 56 yards and his first career touchdown, while Clifford's score was his second of the season and the fourth of his career.
With a season-high 16 tackles, McCain became the first Ursinus player to go over 100 for a season since 2002.
Thomas had a monster afternoon at defensive end, tallying nine tackles and 2.5 stops for loss in addition to 1.5 sacks and an interception. Capobianco matched him with nine stops, and senior Matt Hartigan had a tackle for loss and a pass breakup.
The Bears limited Dickinson quarterback Billy Burger, who set the program record with 33 completions last week, to 8 of 21 for just 84 yards and three interceptions.
Heading to the postseason for the first time since 2009, Ursinus will wait until tomorrow's NCAA selection show to determine its opponent. If Muhlenberg receives an at-large bid, the Bears will be the number two seed in the Centennial/MAC Series and travel to Misericordia. If the Mules do not, Ursinus will be No. 3 and likely play host to Lycoming.