COLLEGEVILLE, Pa. – The Ursinus College football team went toe to toe with undefeated Muhlenberg into the second half, but was unable to handle the Mules' high-powered rushing attack in a 34-14 Centennial Conference setback.
Muhlenberg (5-0, 5-0), which came in ranked 24th in the D3football.com poll, piled up exactly 600 yards of offense – 356 of them coming on the ground – and pulled away behind a bevy of long drives to remain in first place in the CC.
Sophomore running back Samuel Ragland equaled the single-game program record with 12 catches for 176 yards for Ursinus (4-2, 3-2) in the home side's second straight loss following a 4-0 start.
The Mules brought the nation's 9th-ranked rushing defense with them to Patterson Field and lived up to their billing, limiting Ursinus' conference-leading running attack to just 21 yards.
Unable to generate anything on the ground, the Bears took to the air. After Muhlenberg drove 99 yards in five plays, the last a 27-yard touchdown pass from Michael Hnatkowsky to Max Kirin, Ursinus punched right back.
The hosts took advantage of a personal foul on Muhlenberg, which negated what would have been a fourth down, and moved to the Mules' 3 on a picture-perfect pass from junior quarterback Thomas Garlick to freshman Ryan Loughlin. Three plays later, Garlick hit senior tight end Thomas Cardozo in the right corner of the end zone for an 11-yard score that made it 7-7 with 4:24 to play in the opening quarter.
Muhlenberg missed a short field goal, but forced a Bears punt and cashed in for seven more on Hnatkowsky's 3-yard scoring pass to Kirin.
Sophomore Steve Honick was pressed into action when Garlick left with a leg injury, and the reserve acquitted himself well, marching the Bears to the Muhlenberg 17 before a sack short-circuited a promising drive.
The Mules had a chance to extend their lead on the last play of the first half, but junior Mitchell Bradford came around the left edge to block another short field-goal attempt and keep it a 14-7 game at the break.
Ursinus' defense bent again but refused to break on the first possession of the third quarter. Muhlenberg went all the way down to the 3 and elected to go for it on fourth down. The Mules dialed up the "Philly Special," but the Bears were ready for it and there was nowhere for receiver Thomas Murphy to go with the ball.
Muhlenberg, however, took advantage of the field position and forced a three-and-out, taking over at the Bears' 31 and getting in five plays later on Mark Riggio's 1-yard rush. Another punt by Ursinus led to another touchdown by the Mules, who ran it on seven straight plays en route to a 17-yard connection from Hnatkowsky to Murphy with 1:56 left in the third.
The Bears found some life early in the fourth, when Garlick's incredible touchdown run made it 28-14 with 14:28 to go. Garlick escaped pressure and funneled out to the left, hurdling over a defender before stretching the ball across the goal line.
The Mules stayed on the ground to ice the game, running on all seven plays of a 67-yard drive that culminated in James Diggs' 5-yard scoring plunge with 10:27 left.
Diggs (163 yards) and Riggio (155) each rushed for over 150 yards for Muhlenberg, while Hnatkowsky was 19 of 31 for 244 yards and three scores.
Junior Stacey Gardner was the only effective option on the ground for Ursinus, rushing for 39 yards on six carries before exiting with an injury in the first half.
Garlick was 18 for 28 for 251 yards and a touchdown, moving into a tie for third with his 400th career completion. Honick completed four of seven throws for 42 yards.
Ragland's dozen catches equaled the mark set five times in school history, most recently by Carmen Fortino in 2016. Loughlin caught five balls for 64 yards, and Cardozo recorded his third touchdown reception of the season.
Frankie Feaster had 2.5 sacks for a Mule defense that produced six on the day.
Junior Jacob McCain continued to lead the Bears' defense with 14 tackles, with classmates Marcus Weathers (2.5 TFL) and Brett Capobianco chipping in 10 apiece. Junior Mitchell Bradford had a crucial pass deflection and provided terrific coverage throughout the afternoon.
The Bears have the next week off for the CC-wide bye before returning to host Susquehanna on October 20.