The Susquehanna University Football team was in a back-and-forth battle all day with nationally ranked Johns Hopkins and in the end the River Hawks posted a 37-35 victory to remain undefeated in the Centennial Conference opener and home opener for Susquehanna Saturday on Amos Alonzo Stagg Field in Selinsgrove.
Susquehanna (2-0 overall, 1-0 Centennial) beat Hopkins (1-1, 0-1), ranked No. 18 in the latest national poll, for the first time at home since 1977 and stopped a nine-game skid to the Blue Jays.
Hopkins opened the scoring just 1:15 into the contest taking advantage of a Susquehanna fumble on the first play of the game.
The River Hawks responded as the defense forced a three-and-out drive on the next Hopkins possession and freshman quarterback Michael Ruisch put Susquehanna on the board on just two plays as he connected with Mikah Christian for a 51-yard scoring pass and catch to knot the game at 7-7.
The teams traded punts on the next two drives and the Susquehanna defense put together a big stop late in the first period stopping the Blue Jays on a fourth down attempt at the Susquehanna 30-yard line and the first quarter ended with a 7-7 tie.
Hopkins started the second quarter with a six-play, 82-yard scoring drive that was capped by a 37-yard pass. Susquehanna answered back with a nine-play, 76-yard drive as Ruish scrambled and ran 10 yards to the goal line and then pushed it in from a yard out to tie the score again at 14-14.
The Blue Jays regained the lead on the ensuing drive going 49 yards in six plays after a 47-yard kickoff return gave Hopkins great field position.
The next Susquehanna drive stalled just inside the Hopkins 30-yard line after an incomplete pass on a fourth down attempt but on the first play after Hopkins took over, Ricky Reyes intercepted a pass and raced 45 yards to the two-yard line that set up a Torey Brown TD run that once again tied the score.
The Susquehanna defense put together another stop and the teams headed into the halftime break tied at 21-21.
The Blue Jays wasted no time taking the lead back at the start of the second half with another long kickoff return and a three-play scoring drive to post a 28-21 lead just 1:17 into the third quarter.
Susquehanna had yet another answer with the longest drive of the game as Ruisch engineered an 11-play, 77-yard scoring drive that was capped by an Aaron Speight one-yard run. Ruisch was 4-for-6 for 44 yards on the drive including a 20-yard pass play to Anthony McCoy that put the River Hawks into the red zone. A pass interference penalty on the next pass put the ball on the two-yard line and Speight carried it in over the next two plays.
The turning point of the game came on the next Hopkins drive. After a false start pushed the Blue Jays back to start the drive, Kashief Hyatt sacked the Hopkins quarterback setting up a long third down play and facing a fourth and long, the Blue Jays set up to punt the ball back to the River Hawks.
The snap sailed over the head of the punter and out of the back of the end zone for a safety and the first Susquehanna lead of the game at 30-28.
The next Susquehanna drive consumed another 4:18 off the game clock but stalled on a failed fourth down attempt.
Johns Hopkins took over at the 31-yard line and the Susquehanna defense held strong again forcing another three-and-out as the Blue Jays did not gain a yard.
The River Hawks took over and started a drive that would last into the fourth quarter and end with another Brown TD run from one yard out as Susquehanna took a nine-point lead at 37-28 early in the final period.
Each team punted with their next drive and Hopkins used a 10-play, 58-yard scoring drive that started with just under 11 minutes left to play and cut the lead to just two points at 37-35 with 7:33 left to play.
After a short drive for the River Hawks, punter Jake Wiles pushed the Blue Jays back to their own 33 yard line to start a drive with 4:13 left on the clock.
An early holding penalty pushed Hopkins back to the 20-yard line but the Blue Jays put together a 13-play drive that moved the ball all the way to the Susquehanna 17-yard line and facing a 4th-and-1 situation, sent on the field goal unit with a chance to take the lead with 24 seconds left.
The kick was wide to the right and Susquehanna took a knee on the final play to end the game.
Ruisch ended up 18-for-32 for 270 yards and one TD passing and added 19 yards and another TD on the ground. Speight had 46 yards and Brown had 44 yards rushing while Carsley led the receivers with six catches and 101 yards.
Connor Thompson led the defense with 13 tackles while Jason Brougham and Cole Dixon each had eight stops. Nick Sottile and Reyes had seven tackles each and Hyatt had 1 ½ sacks.
The River Hawks continue Centennial Conference play with another home game next Saturday hosting Muhlenberg in a 1 p.m. game on Stagg Field.