BETHLEHEM, Pa. --- Sophomore quarterback Mike Hayes threw for 197 yards and a pair of touchdowns in his first collegiate start while sophomore running back Chris Negron added 100 yards and two scores on the ground as the Moravian College football team opened its 2014 season with a 33-14 victory over King's College in non-conference action at Rocco Calvo Field Saturday.
The Greyhounds captured their first season-opening win under fourth-year head coach Jeff Pukszyn and the program's first victory in week one since a 12-6 victory over Susquehanna University on September 4, 2010.
"This was so important for us and we've been concentrating on winning the opener since the offseason started last year," stated Pukszyn. "We felt like we were playing better at the end of the year last fall, and we wanted to carry that momentum through the offseason. You get to the first game and it's a little unknown especially since we haven't played King's since 2006, and we're watching film from last year. Winning the opener really lifts the guys spirits and gives us confidence going into the Centennial Conference schedule.
"It is critical to get the opening win and we're excited to win in week one. I think my staff did a phenomenal job getting everyone prepared in the game plan. The guys came out and reacted off of it and did a great job," continued Pukszyn.
Moravian needed just 3:10 to get on the scoreboard in 2014. Negron capped an 8-play, 60-yard drive with an 18-yard scamper to the end zone. Negron was stopped for a loss on the opening play before Hayes connected on three straight passes. Negron then covered the final 36 yards to pay dirt on four plays. The extra-point attempt was wide left to give the Hounds a 6-0 lead.
"I think Chris did a really good job today," Pukszyn said. "He didn't try to do too much. Sometimes when you have a guy that plays at a high level like him, you kind of want to push things but Chris let the game come to him."
King's would have to punt on its first possession, pinning Moravian inside the 10-yard line. The Monarchs would then get the ball back after four plays when Hayes was intercepted by Justin Burke.
The Moravian defense responded with junior linebacker Chernoh Shaw making a fourth down stop to give the ball back to the Greyhounds' offense. Moravian punted on the possession but would get the back again from the defense with junior linebacker Brendan Downey intercepting a pass just before the end of the first quarter.
The Greyhounds would punt again early in the second quarter but once again the defense would give the offense the ball back. Two plays into King's possession, junior defensive back Jimmy McCarthy, making his first start on defense after starting at wide receiver the last two years, intercepted a pass.
"I'm so proud of Jimmy," explained Pukszyn. "One for being that great teammate in understanding the move over to defense after being the Centennial Rookie of the Year at wide receiver two years ago. It shows how selfless he is, and he came into his own today as well as making a pick. He'll just get more and more confident as the year goes along."
After the team's traded punts, the Greyhounds took over at their own 28-yard line with 6:43 left in the second quarter. Moravian put together an 11-play, 72-yard drive to extend the lead. The Hounds ran the ball on 10 of 11 plays in the possession with Negron scoring from 11 yards out. Junior Cedar McCredie hit the extra-point for a 13-0 lead with 2:26 before the intermission.
The Monarchs wouldn't need that long to get on the scoreboard after a 56-yard kickoff return by Burke. King's moved into the red zone in three plays but Moravian's defense held inside the 10-yard line to force a field goal attempt. The Monarchs lined up to attempt a short field goal but a fumbled snap would lead to back-up quarterback and holder Tom Hehre scrambling to his right and diving inside the pylon for the score, cutting Moravian's lead to 13-7 with 1:21 before halftime.
Hayes connected on a pair of long passes to move the Hounds to the red zone but his final two passes of the half were just overthrown in the end zone.
King's opened the second half with possession but Moravian's defense came up with a fourth down stop to give the Hounds' offense the ball near midfield. Hayes led the Greyhounds on an 8-play, 56-yard drive finished off with his first career touchdown pass of five yards to junior wide receiver Will McLaughlin in the back right corner of the end zone. McCredie added another extra-point for a 20-7 lead with 10:09 remaining in the third quarter.
"I thought Mike did a great job in his first game," commented Pykszyn. "He over threw a couple of guys which really isn't a bad thing since it shows the arm strength is there. Mike managed the game very, very well today."
Moravian forced the Monarchs to punt after three plays, and the Hounds answered with another touchdown to push the lead to 26-7. Hayes orchestrated a 10-play, 75-yard drive that saw him connect with sophomore wide receiver Liam Nolan on a 14-yard touchdown pass. The extra-point was wide to the left.
"Liam came on the scene last year and he came into camp in rock solid shape," stated Pukszyn. "I think he makes big time plays and he just finds ways to get open. He's also on special teams and does phenomenal whenever he's on the field."
King's drove down the field and looked to get on the scoreboard on the final play third quarter but Mikhail Kniaziewicz's 22-yard field goal attempt was wide right.
Moravian was unable to capitalize on the missed kick but once again, the Hound defense came up with a fourth down stop to give the offense the ball back at Greyhounds' 35-yard line.
On Moravian's first play, freshman wide receiver Eli Redmond came in motion, took the handoff and raced 65 yards down the right sideline for his first collegiate touchdown. Junior Jerome Wachter connected on the extra-point for a 33-7 lead with 10:21 left in the game.
King's finished off the scoring on its next possession with Tyler Hartranft connecting on a 33-yard touchdown pass to Dan Kempa with 6:44 left.
After a punt by the Greyhounds, King's was driving before senior safety Ricky Sinnig ended the threat with an interception in the end zone.
Moravian rolled up 440 yards of total offense on 70 plays including 243 on the ground. Negron led the way with his fifth-career game over 100 yards, reaching an even 100 yards on 19 carries. He was six yards shy of the century mark before coming in spell the reserves and pick up his final six yards on one rush. Redmond ran for 71 yards on four carries with his long touchdown while senior running back Luke Gotzon had 37 yards on six attempts before leaving with an injury. Freshman defensive lineman/running back Jordan Stout picked up 20 yards on five carries in the fourth quarter, and he also had one tackle while seeing time of defense.
"Jordan is a very athletic kid," said Pukszyn. "He is a kid who can be our back-up punter, is seeing time on the defensive line and he's really a fullback/tailback in our short yardage stuff. He is arguably one of the strongest kids on the team if not the conference. He's just a really good athlete at 6-0, 265."
Sophomore Edward Delia ran for eight yards on his first three collegiate carries while Hayes added seven yards on four rushes. Hayes was also 15-for-29 in the game for 197 yards with the two touchdowns and one interception. Nolan caught six passes for 92 yards to go with his touchdown while McLaughin added six catches for 59 yards and a score. Sophomore wide receiver Jalen Snyder-Scipio added three receptions for 46 yards.
McCarthy and sophomore defensive lineman John Snyder each had six tackles to lead the Moravian defense with McCarthy adding an interception and Snyder contributing a pass break-up and half a sack. Junior defensive back Anthony Orlando and senior linebacker Kevin Bracken each had five tackles while Sinnig and Shaw each made four stops with Sinnig making Moravian's third interception of the game. Junior linebacker Tim McCabe had a sack for the Greyhounds while junior defensive lineman Ryan Pysher added a half a sack.
"I thought Kevin Bracken played a great game today with a couple of big tackles," commented Pukszyn. "I think the guys up front – John Snyder, Ryan Pysher and Andrew Richmond – did a good job and we rotated seven guys on the line with sophomore Chuka Onukwugha batting down two balls at critical times. I think all three safeties in Orlando, Sinnig and senior Chris McGrath were confident and really get all of our checks down to put everyone in the right positions."
Moravian will open its 2014 Centennial Conference season on Saturday, September 13 when McDaniel College comes to Bethlehem for a 1:00 p.m. game at Rocco Calvo Field.