BETHLEHEM, Pa. --- Freshman running back Eli Redmond took the opening kickoff with his feet on the goal line and raced a school-record 100 yards to the end zone to give the Moravian College football team a lead it would not relinquish, and he also rushed for 109 yards on 19 carries in a 28-7 victory over McDaniel College Saturday afternoon at Rocco Calvo Field to begin the 2014 Centennial Conference season.
With the victory, the Greyhounds improve to 2-0 on the season for the first time since 2008 when the program had a 4-0 start.
"It's a great thing for the program, the kids and the college," commented Head Coach Jeff Pukszyn on opening at 2-0. "We were just trying to get another win this week. It is a great feeling. I think the players did a great job and the staff did a great job of preparing the guys. We asked some guys to do some more things this week like Eli moving to running back and asking Andrew Racobaldo to do some more at tight end. They both did a great job and the guys were focused all week in practice. The work during the week really showed up on the field this afternoon in all three phases of the game."
Redmond fielded the opening kickoff near the right hash mark with his feet on the goal line and took off towards the left side of the field. After picking up a couple of blocks, Redmond made a move to get past the McDaniel kicker and raced down the far sideline. Junior Cedar McCredie connected on the extra-point to put the Greyhounds up 7-0 just 13 seconds into the game.
"Coach set it up perfectly in practice," stated Redmond of the return. "We have our three blockers set in their positions and I was able to make a cut off of a great block from Jimmy McCarthy to get into the open field. It feels good to have a record that won't be broken so early in my career."
The return was Moravian's first for a touchdown since an 82-yard return by Ryan Rempe '10 in 2008 at Gettysburg College. Redmond's return also broke the school-record of 98 yards set by Jed Warsager '05 in in 2002 at Lebanon Valley College.
"It was hard to see from down on the field where Eli's feet were when he caught the opening kickoff or how deep he was when he brought it out," Pukszyn said. "It is something we've been real diligent about, gaining return yards and winning the special teams and field possession battles. I think assistant coach Bob McClarin has a great scheme that he is working with and some great athletes like Eli. That breathes a little more life into you when you get an opening kickoff return like that."
McDaniel ran just three offensive plays on its first drive before Moravian senior defensive back Chris McGrath intercepted a pass by Green Terror quarterback Seth McFall to set the Greyhounds up at their own 21-yard line.
The Hounds put together a 12-play drive to get into the red zone. However, facing a fourth-and-goal at the 14-yard line, sophomore quarterback Mike Hayeshad a pass intercepted in the end zone by Tyler Krebs.
The next three possessions in the game all ended in punts with Moravian eventually taking possession at its own eight-yard line late in the first quarter. Redmond carried the ball on the first four plays of the drive including a 25-yard run to move the ball out to the Moravian 35-yard line.
"They switched me to running back this week due to the injury to Luke Gotzon, but I played running back in high school so it was similar," commented Redmond. "The offensive line played great and was making all the blocks."
After the change of ends to start the second quarter, Hayes completed a pass before sophomore running back Chris Negron took over in the backfield and ran four straight times. A 20-yard run by Hayes would put the ball on the McDaniel six-yard line, and Negron would score his third touchdown of the season on a six yard carry off the left side. McCredie's extra-point attempt was just wide to the right to keep the score at 13-0 with 12:39 left in the second quarter.
The Green Terror next drive ended in a turnover on downs after three straight incomplete passes while the Greyhounds would have to punt after three plays. The squads traded punts again before McDaniel took over on its own 16-yard line with 3:54 until halftime. On the fourth play of the drive, sophomore defensive back Noah Miller broke up a pass by McFall and the ball bounced into the air where senior linebacker Richard Kugel intercepted the pass and returned it 22 yards to the McDaniel 36-yard line.
Hayes found sophomore wide receiver Jalen Snyder-Scipio down the seam for 35 yards to the one yard line. Freshman running back/defensive lineman Jordan Stout came on to score his first collegiate touchdown on a one-yard run. The Hounds went for the two-point conversion with Redmond finding the end zone but a penalty would move the ball back to the 16-yard line. Coach Puksyzn called for the two-point try again and Hayes connected on a pass to Snyder-Scipio in the left corner of the end zone in double coverage. The two points pushed Moravian's lead to 21-0 with 1:50 left in the first half.
McDaniel started to move the ball on its next drive up eventually but punted the ball away, and the Greyhounds would take a knee to head to the locker room with a 21-0 lead.
The Green Terror opened the second half with the ball but went three-and-out on the first series.
Moravian's first possession of the second half started at its own 28-yard line. With Negron running the ball and Hayes completing a pair of 20-plus yard passes to junior wide receiver Will McLaughlin, the Hounds moved to the one-yard line. Stout came in to finish off the 11-play, 72-yard drive with his second one-yard run of the game. McCredie split the uprights with the extra-point for a 28-0 advantage with 8:49 to play in the third quarter.
"Jordan has a high football IQ for a freshman," explained Pukszyn. "We saw his strength come through on those two runs that he had. He might be one of the strongest kids in the conference as a freshman, and we have a bunch of strong kids in our program. On defense, we've moved Jordan from outside linebacker to the defensive line and he overpowered the guy in front of him for a sack and is just playing great."
For the next 16 minutes, neither team was able to move the ball in the rainy conditions, either punting or turning the ball over on downs. The Green Terror would eventually put a drive together and score on a 22-yard pass from Ryan Yamada to Sean Montgomery with 1:43 to play.
Moravian ran out the clock with three straight runs by sophomore running back Edward Delia.
The Hounds finished the game with 371 yards on 69 plays including 243 yards on the ground on 49 rushes. Redmond's 109 yards on 19 carries led the way while Negron picked up 69 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Hayes, who completed 8-of-20 passes for 146 yards and an interception, ran for 41 yards on four attempts.
"I think Eli has a lot of God-given ability and he doesn't take it for granted," Pukszyn said. "He worked really hard with Coach McClarin our running backs coach this week to get back into the groove of something he did in high school but not done consistently in about two years. He read his blocks well and then Eli's athleticism took over."
McLaughlin caught four passes for 71 yards while Snyder-Scipio, Negron, Racobaldo and sophomore wide receiver Liam Nolan each had one reception.
"Even though he might have had a couple of drops, I think Jalen played a good game with some great blocks down the field to spring guys for some long gains, and that is great to see," Pukszyn said.
Kugel led the Moravian defense with eight tackles to go with a half a tackle for loss and his interception.
"I think Rich got better as the game went along," commented Pukszyn. "In the beginning, there was probably a play or two that he was disappointed in that he didn't make or wasn't in the right positon but every series, he kept getting better and better and putting himself in better position. It shows up in the end when he started attacking the line of scrimmage and defending the run."
Senior linebacker Kevin Bracken added six stops with a half a tackle for loss while junior linebacker Steve Secor, senior defensive back Ricky Sinnig and sophomore defensive lineman John Snyder each made five stops with Sinnig and Snyder breaking up passes. Stout added four tackles and a sack in addition to his two touchdowns on offense.
"I think our defensive line of Snyder, senior Andrew Richmond and junior Ryan Pysher did a phenomenal job up front," Pukszyn said. "I also think Chernoh Shaw stepped up at the outside linebacker position and did a really nice job. We knew McDaniel was going to try and throw the ball so I think the back seven did a great job with the pressure from the front."
Moravian will make its first road trip of the 2014 season next Saturday, September 20 as the Greyhounds head to Baltimore to face No. 13 Johns Hopkins University in a Centennial Conference game kicking off at 12:00 p.m. at Homewood Field.