DALLAS – Another slow start by Misericordia, but another strong second half.
It's something that Mark Ross has become accustomed to this season.
I wish we could just start games in the third quarter because we play well in the second half, the Misericordia head coach said.
FDU-Florham scored just two plays into the game, and built a 34-3 lead at halftime as the Devils left Luzerne County with a 41-10 victory Saturday.
The Devils used two big runs by freshman Craig Kimbrough to score just 40 second in, and FDU kept moving the ball in chunks.
Before the Cougars could even break a sweat, it was 13-0 after FDU capitalized on a fumble recovery deep in Misericordia territory.
We wanted to get off to a good start, FDU-Florham head coach Brian Surace said. We challenged them with that this week, and credit our players because they responded. They executed the plays that were called.
While the Cougars were able to keep up with the Devils offensively, beating FDU in first downs and only outgained by about 60 yards, the biggest issue was field position.
On seven of its first eight possessions, Surace's crew started near midfield or in Misericordia territory.
The result? Five touchdowns.
The back-breaker was a long, 34-yard pass from Dan Pastor to a wide-open Jon Bennett down the sideline for a 20-3 lead early in the second quarter.
We lost the battle of field position, there's no doubt, Ross said. We dropped the ball on kick-offs, and that part of the game is such a timing thing. The punts, we are struggling with. It's an area we have a disadvantage in entering each week. We will just continue to work.
FDU-Florham (2-6), on the other hand, gained momentum from its defense.
Down 13-0, the Cougars (0-8) drove to the FDU 2. But after being stuffed on back-to-back rushing plays, quarterback Jeff Puckett dropped back on fourth down and was sacked by Mickey Weiks, ending the promising drive.
They had that goal-line stand early, and that was big, Surace said. We didn't allow Misericordia to get momentum. Our defense was big in the first half, and played well.
Misericordia scored on its opening drive in the second half, stringing together a five-play, 58-yard series capped by a 33-yard score by Frank Santarsiero, who broke through the line and went untouched down the left sideline.
In tough times, you find out what you are made of. I thought we played much better in the second half when it would have been real easy to just fold up the tents and pack it in, Ross said. We tried to bring some more pressure in the second half, and maybe we should have done that a little earlier. We had a call we had to alter in order to stop those outside sweeps. A lot of it comes down to blocking and tackling, and we didn't come off the blocks well at times. They blocked us well.
Kimbrough finished with 161 yards rushing, while Robin Custudio finished with a team-high 82 yards.
You are trying to put your players in good positions to make plays, and fortunately today, we made some early, Surace said. We did well running the football, so credit the backs and the line for that. It's exciting to get back to that. It's nice to have that threat on the field.
FDU-Florham 41, Misericordia 10
FDU – Craig Kimbrough 41 run (Travis Mullen kick), 14:20
FDU – Jon Bennett 1 run (kick failed), 10:56
MU – Steve Clemson 20 field goal, 13:04
FDU –Bennett 34 pass from Dan Pastor (Mullen kick), 11:45
FDU – Kimbrough 30 run (Mullen kick), 5:33
FDU – Anthony Ognibene 7 run (Mullen kick), 1:17
MU -- Frank Santarsiero 33 run (Clemson kick), 12:53
FDU – Ognibene 14 run (Mullen kick), 10:48
RUSHING: FDU, Craig Kimbrough 14-161, Anthony Ognibene 6-46, Jon Bennett 10-32, James Ognibene 1-9, Monty Krough 2-3, Dan Pastor 2-(-2). MIS, Robin Custodio 24-82, Frank Santarsiero 15-63, Cody Lamoreaux 12-34, Jeff Puckett 7-11, Michael Pheasant 2-4, Phil Arnold 1-(-5), Juwan Petties-Jacks 1-(-6).
PASSING: FDU, A. Ognibene 3-9-0 21 yards; Pastor 2-3-0, 40 yards. MIS, Puckett 4-6-0 31 yards; Pheasant 0-3-0, 0 yards.
RECEIVING: FDU, Bennett 2-49, Kimbrough 2-6, Bryan Soletto 1-6. MIS, Dean Lucchesi 1-12, Tyler Rowe 1-9, Santarsiero 1-8, Kurt Kowalski 1-2.
MISSED FIELD GOALS –none