Gerhart Ties INT Record in Furious Comeback Attempt at #25 Susquehanna

Gerhart Ties INT Record in Furious Comeback Attempt at #25 Susquehanna

SELINSGROVE, Pa. – Justin Gerhart tied a school record with three interceptions on Saturday to help the Franklin & Marshall football team mount a furious second half comeback attempt. The Diplomats appeared to a have a chance at a game-winning drive as they recovered an onside kick with exactly one minute remaining in regulation, but were called for an illegal touch as the No. 25 River Hawks escaped with a 39-36 victory.

It was certainly a tale of two halves as the Diplomats (1-1) trailed the nationally-ranked River Hawks (2-0) by a 32-7 score heading into halftime. The script certainly flipped as the Diplomats scored a pair of touchdowns in both the third and fourth quarters to create some anxious moments on the Susquehanna sideline. However, kickoff returns for touchdowns during both halves for the homestanding River Hawks loomed large in their 39-36 victory. F&M's defensive efforts were additionally bolstered by a Dante Medlar interception as the four interceptions tied the team record that had been accomplish four times previously, most recently during the 2021 Centennial-MAC Bowl Series victory against Susquehanna.

First Quarter (Susquehanna 15, F&M 7)

The River Hawks wasted no time in striking early as they returned the opening kickoff 95 yards to go up 7-0 before an offensive play was run. The River Hawks were up 15-0 after they additionally scored on their first offensive drive of the game, adding a two-point conversion on a fake PAT to go up 15-0. Franklin & Marshall got its first touchdown of the game on the ensuing drive with the help of an unnecessary roughness call on a hit out of bounds. The River Hawks appeared to have forced another three-and-out, but that late hit kept the drive going and eventually led to Jake Fant finding Trey Glass for a 39-yard touchdown strike midway through the first quarter before the defenses settled in.

Second Quarter (Susquehanna 32, F&M 7)

Susquehanna went on its third scoring drive late in the first quarter and eventually converted that chance early in the second after going 61 yards over 13 plays. That drive was capped by a 35-yard goal. Susquehanna quarterback Michael Ruisch threw for two more touchdowns during that quarter. The first was a short four-yard dump after the defense forced a three-and-out. The second was an 18-yard pass with 1:41 remaining before the break after the Diplomats had gotten into Susquehanna territory but saw that drive stall on a sack during fourth down.

Third Quarter (Susquehanna 39, F&M 20)

Logan Clouse started the second half at quarterback after an injury to Fant and promptly led the team on a 13 play, 70-yard touchdown drive that was capped by his six-yard touchdown pass to Jack Sutton. That drive was started with the feet of Clouse as he additionally had runs of 14 and 22 yards to help move the chains. Nevertheless, Susquehanna answered that challenge with its second kickoff return for a touchdown – this one going 93 yards – to set the score at 39-13.

After pinning the River Hawks back deep on their own 12 start their first offensive drive of the half, Gerhart came up with one of his school-record three interceptions and returned that 15 yards for an F&M touchdown. Gerhart ended the next drive as well with a second down interception that flipped the field position in the Diplomats' favor.

Fourth Quarter (Susquehanna 39, F&M 36)

Leading 39-20, the River Hawks had the ball out near midfield at the end of the quarter. However, the Diplomats got great field position when the punter's knee hit the turf on a low snap to spot the ball at the 35 yard line. The Diplomats did not cash in immediately as they were stopped on fourth down, but an interception from Medlar gave F&M possession back in Susquehanna territory and Laurence Miller was able to convert a 30-yard field goal with 9:52 remaining in the game.

Following a pair of stops from the F&M defense, the Diplomats' offense quickly moved the ball down the field for a 68-yard drive that was capped by Mitch Wagner's 13-yard run for his first touchdown of the season. The two-point conversion failed to make the score 39-29 with 2:01 left to play. This time it was Jacob Hille's turn to step up on defense as he forced and recovered a fumble on the first play of that drive with Susquehanna looking to run out the clock. The Diplomats continued to show they were not going to go down easily as Clouse ran for six yards before completing three straight passes to Aaron Rascoe (21 yds.), Isaiah Brown (10 yds.), and Sutton (19 yds.) to set the score 39-36 after the PAT.

The Diplomats went for the onside kick and did recover the attempt, only to be called for an illegal touch which allowed the River Hawks to take a pair of knees and run out the remaining 50 seconds of game clock.

Key Players, Stats & Notables

Franklin & Marshall outgained Susquehanna 260-38 in second half yardage, finishing with a 341-264 yard advantage in total offense for the game. However, that was offset by the two kickoff returns for touchdowns. Clouse threw for 137 yards and two touchdowns during the second half of play. He also ran for 66 yards on 10 carries to be the team's second leading rusher despite being sacked twice. Rascoe led the team in rushing with 63 yards on 22 carries. Susquehanna's defense came up with six sacks on the day, but the Diplomats still ran for 142 yards and threw for 199 more. Sutton led F&M with six catches for 62 yards and his pair of touchdowns. Rascoe additionally caught five passes for 72 yards out of the backfield to give him 135 all-purpose yards.

The Diplomats' defense held the River Hawks to just 55 yards rushing on 28 carries. Ruisch did throw for 205 yards and the touchdown. Gerhart's three interceptions tied the school record that was originally set by Dan Howley during the 1972 season and was later matched by Joe Cavallo in 1987, Troy Nagle in 1991, and Sam Massaro in 2010. Massaro's most recent effort just over a decade ago also came at Susquehanna. The team had previously intercepted four passes in a game against Ursinus twice (2002 & 2008), Muhlenberg (2005), and Stevenson (2021).

In addition to his huge turnover during the fourth quarter, Hille led the team with 10 tackles, with Amare Conley and reigning Centennial Conference Defensive Player of the Week Brian Lafty adding seven more stops. Twelve different Diplomats made multiple tackles on the afternoon.

Up Next

Franklin & Marshall plays in back-to-back road games just once this season and that will occur in weeks two and three as the team heads to McDaniel next Saturday for a 1 p.m. kickoff in Westminster. The Diplomats defeated the Green Terror 35-0 in last year's game. McDaniel will be coming off of a 35-19 win against Juniata when it enters week three of the Centennial Conference football schedule.