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Photo courtesy of PC Athletics

MOREHEAD, Ky. – A spectacular group effort from the Presbyterian College football team’s defensive core on Saturday afternoon nearly allowed a D-heavy PFL contest to swing in their favor against the Eagles of Morehead State.

Despite a second-half clean sheet, three forced turnovers, five sacks, ten tackles for a loss, a 72% chance of getting off the field on 3rd down, and three successful fourth down stops, the Blue Hose narrowly fell in the final moments at Jayne Stadium by a 14-10 clip.

On a gloomy, occasionally misty day that saw both teams’ defensive groups dominate for the majority of the second conference date, the Eagles wrestled away a 14-0 advantage into the early stages of the fourth stanza, initially believing the damage to have been dealt before PC furiously reentered the equation with a sudden 10-0 burst.

Bringing the game to within one score at the eight-and-a-half-minute mark by scoring all 10 of those points off of Morehead miscues, the Blue Hose were unable to reach the end zone in their final two drives that both began inside their own 15-yard line.

Altogether, the defensive side of the scrimmage line prevailed on 26 of the game’s 34 third-down snaps, with neither side able to move the chains in a 4th-down scenario on eight combined instances. Additionally, both teams added up for a combined 13 sacks – five of them Presbyterian’s doing – for a total loss of 92 yards.

FINAL SCORE: Morehead State, 14 – Presbyterian, 10

RECORDS: Presbyterian (1-4, 0-2 PFL). Morehead State (2-3, 1-1 PFL)

LOCATION: Jayne Stadium (Morehead, Ky.)

OPENING KICK:

- Among the many defensive stalwarts that continually punished Morehead State at the line of scrimmage, redshirt-junior linebacker Campbell Watson shined brightest amidst the chaos. In a career-best showing across all fronts, the Fayetteville, N.C. product racked up 11 total tackles while meeting MSU in the backfield four times. Sacking Eagles quarterback Grady Cramer twice for added losses of 14 yards, Watson added a pass breakup and a forced fumble to his loaded Saturday stat-sheet, the latter opening the door for the Blue Hose to reach paydirt midway through the fourth quarter to effectively make the comeback possibility a reality.

- Safety Keegan Halloran, following up a career-high 14 tackles a week ago versus Davidson, put together eight more in the tight loss to start off the month of October, as seven other Presbyterian defenders recorded five tackles or better during the second-half shutout.

- PC’s relentless effort on the defensive side of the field extended beyond simply a host of TFL’s, as A.J. Seay, Watson, and Anthony Dye were responsible for a trio of forced turnovers (a sideline tiptoe interception and back-to-back strip-sacks on the opposing QB), all occurring across the dramatic second-half turn.

- Redshirt-junior wideout Jalen Jones, a regular favorite target of classmate slinger Nate Hayden, was granted 94 yards through the air on only four catches, his longest of the day being a 33-yard completion early in the 2nd frame.

- Hayden and QB partner Ty Englehart again turned into a formidable 1-2 punch, with the former throwing for 169 yards and the latter adding an extra 53 on just six attempts. Delvecchio Powell II gathered 65 yards of total offense (47 on the ground, 18 receiving).

HOW IT HAPPENED:

- Stuck with a sluggish start in attempting to move the football forward, the Blue Hose ended the first quarter with -6 yards of total offense, unable to conjure a first down. Denying the Eagles an opportunity to cash in on points during their first drive after a missed field goal try, PC’s defense forced MSU into 11 plays to only reach 46 yards on their second series, however eating up enough clock to chew up most of the period and end in a Morehead touchdown.

- Taking over again into the second stanza and threatening at the Presbyterian 27, the Eagles were saddled with their first of three failed fourth down conversions, sailing an errant pass on a QB pressure from Dye, the fifth of an eventual six quarterback pressures amounted by the PC front line.

- Hayden was at last able to inject some life into the Blue Hose offense with consecutive completions to Jones to open the 2nd for 46 yards. The remainder of that drive and the ensuing three weren’t very favorable for head coach Steve Englehart’s club, succumbing to a 94-yard TD drive from the Eagles late in the half to fall behind 14-0 at the intermission.

- Unbeknownst to Morehead State, their scoring would be finished for the afternoon, thanks to the Presbyterian defense engaging a new gear over the final 30 minutes of action. MSU realized they would be in for a long second half once A.J. Seay picked off Cramer in the second snap of the frame, only beginning the Eagles’ woes from then on.

- On 3rd and 5 from the midfield logo, Watson barreled into Morehead’s backfield for a six-yard loss to reach his first career sack. Two plays later when PC regained possession, Hayden found Jones again for another gain of 24 yards, although the momentum was eventually drained following an unsuccessful 4th down play.

- As Englehart was inserted into the driver’s seat in the waning moments of the 3rd – a drive that started all the way back at PC’s own five-yard line, the collegiate rookie concocted a 10-play series that unfortunately ended empty-handed. A questionable ruling on an incomplete pass to Shawn Lodge in the back of the end zone preceded a 4th down drop on the first play of the last quarter to keep the scoreboard at 14-0.

- That unchanged score only lasted a few more moments once Dye found his way into Cramer’s vision, forcing a fumble that was pounced on by Sebastian Conwell to begin PC’s next drive at the exact spot the previous one had just ended. From there, Parker Maddrey made it consecutive weeks of connecting on a 27-yard field goal to trim the lead to 11.

- On the Eagles’ next trip, the Blue Hose continued to live in the backfield as persistently as before. Halloran, Watson, and Malik Busby each punched another ticket to the Presbyterian sack party, the second slam forcing another loose ball that Busby was able to recover at the Morehead 23 with 9:32 on the clock.

- After finding Jordan Irizarry for an 18-yard hookup on 2nd down, Hayden breezily trotted in for seven points at the 1, eliminating the Eagles’ hopes of a calm second half as they had been building toward.

- Forcing an MSU punt on each of their last two drives (including one more sack from George Wilder for good measure), Presbyterian was faced with the majority of the field in front of them on each occasion. Only managing 22 yards out of those trips after Hayden was brought down in the pocket three times, the Blue Hose were forced into the tight loss in their second PFL battle.

UP NEXT:

Going from one largely unfamiliar foe to a similar story next Saturday for Week 6, coach Englehart and co. return to Clinton on October 8 to face off with Valparaiso for just the second time in program history. Hoping to erase the memory of a 65-55 defeat in Indiana last fall, the Blue Hose will search for their first win in conference play while the Beacons will be exiting their bye week entering the trip to Bailey Memorial Stadium.

Hoping to put a dent in Valpo’s 1-0 start to league action (a 28-21 W against San Diego), kickoff on PC’s campus is scheduled for 12:00 noon, broadcasted live via ESPN+.