Crusaders Deliver Dramatic Homecoming Win Over Merchant Marine Academy
A novelist couldn’t have written a more exciting conclusion to the Homecoming football game against the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) on Oct. 4. Sophomore punter/place-kicker Bobby Eppleman, of Chester Springs, Pa., kicked a 19-yard field goal as time expired, and Susquehanna took a 37–35 Liberty League win from the visiting Mariners in one of the most dramatic college football games of recent memory.
Susquehanna thought that it had tied the game with just 23 seconds left in the fourth quarter after senior quarterback Derek Pope, of Selinsgrove, Pa., hit junior split end Justin Young, of Pittsburgh, with a touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal from the Mariners’ 3-yard line. Eppleman’s extra-point attempt was anything but a formality, though, as the Merchant Marine Academy’s freshman utilityman Jake Harrison blocked his second kick of the game to preserve a 35–34 Mariners lead.
A shocked SU crowd in Nicholas A. Lopardo Stadium turned jubilant when the right-footed Eppleman booted the ensuing kickoff with his left foot over the heads of Mariners players awaiting an onside kick. The deepest-positioned USMMA player raced against several Crusaders for the loose ball but couldn’t hold on to it under the pressure of the coverage team. SU’s freshman split end, Mike Ritter, of Selinsgrove, dove on the ball to regain possession at the Mariners’ 10-yard line with 22 seconds left.
The Crusaders took a shot at the end zone before Eppleman’s kick and almost ran out of time. Pope spiked the ball with the clock showing all zeroes, but one second was rightfully put back on the clock. Eppleman got the kick off on time, sending the Susquehanna sidelines onto the field for a raucous celebration of head coach Steve Briggs’ 100th career victory and the 150th anniversary of Susquehanna University.
A postgame fireworks display put the icing on the cake for the more than 4,500 spectators who came out to support the Crusaders for their sesquicentennial Homecoming game.
Robert Healy III, director of athletics communications, is a contributing writer to The Scoreboard section.