Ursinus Football Punches Their Ticket To The Postseason

Image sourced from Ursinus Athletics

Article by Dominic Minicozzi <dominicozzi@ursinus.edu>

The 2023 season for the Ursinus College Football Bears has been a roller coaster full of dominant victories and heartbreaking losses. Going into what was potentially their final game of the year against a formidable rival, the Dickinson College Red Devils, the Bears knew that in order to secure themselves a spot in the Centennial-MAC bowl series and finish with a Centennial Conference record of 3-3, they needed a win.

Before entering this contest the Red Devils had demonstrated that they were the favorites in this matchup, with a conference record of 3-2 coming off of a respectable loss the week prior to the 10-0 Johns Hopkins University Blue Jays, in which they sustained a lead for a majority of the contest. To put it simply, the Bears had their work cut out for them. 

The game started off with a scoreless first quarter for both teams due to some costly mistakes on offense and special teams. For Ursinus, it was an interception thrown on the opening drive in the red zone that prevented them from getting on the board. For the Red Devils it was a missed field goal on their second offensive drive of the quarter that kept this contest at 0-0. 

However, what many would have considered to be a defensive battle in the first quarter quickly became a shootout between offenses. The Bears were the first to strike in the 21 point second quarter with a methodical drive that was capped off with a 4 yard Dawson Fresses touchdown carry. Shortly after, the Red Devils responded with an impressive drive of their own carried by the conference’s leading rusher, Diante Ball, who put them in scoring range with a 31 yard rush up the middle that gashed the Ursinus defense. On the following play, Dickinson had some tricks up their sleeve and decided to run a double pass with senior wide receiver Princeton Douglass, who caught a lateral screen well behind the line of scrimmage and threw a perfect jump ball to the player who made a splash on the previous play, Diante Ball, who made a brilliant contested catch in the endzone. 

With the game now tied at 7 and only 5 minutes remaining before halftime, the Bears offense knew they had to respond quickly. Ursinus’ Quarterback Jalen Bradford strapped up his helmet and marched the Bears downfield with a brilliant passing attack to his arsenal of weapons. Notably, Junior Cameron Dennis and Sophomore Cody House were the primary targets on this drive. But the individual who inevitably found the endzone was the 2022 All-Centennial honorable mention Justin Collier, who caught a 15 yard touchdown pass in the left corner of the endzone. 

Following a successful go-ahead drive for the Bears there was no time left in the quarter for either team to sustain an offensive drive, so the first half came to a close with Ursinus on top at 14-7.

As a result of Dickinson winning the coin toss and electing to defer at the beginning of the contest, they received the ball going into the third quarter. Despite the time they had during halftime to prepare for their upcoming drive, they were forced to punt yet again by this suffocating Bears defense. The third quarter as a whole for both teams appeared eerily similar to the first, as both Ursinus and Dickinson traded punts and were scoreless going into the fourth. 

Although both offenses appeared relatively anemic heading into the final 15 minutes of the game, Dickinson found some life on their first drive of the quarter and gradually marched down the field on the Bears. However, despite their success in the run game with Diante Ball, who marched them down the field almost single handedly for the second time in this game, they elected to pass the ball three consecutive times on the goal line. After three unsuccessful passes, the Red Devils were forced to kick a field goal in order to walk away with some points after what appeared to be a promising opportunity to score. 

To say that the field goal lit a fire inside of the Bears offense would be an understatement. After a multitude of unsuccessful drives that resulted in punts, this unit came out of the gate swinging with a rushing tandem of Tony Holden and Dawson Fresses paving the way. This duo carried the offense down the field on nine consecutive plays and collected Fresses’ second rushing touchdown of the day. 

With the Bears up 21-10 with roughly 5 minutes left, the mission was simple: get a stop and run out the clock. That is exactly what Ursinus did on the following two drives. The Bears defense stayed true to what they had been doing all day, which was getting to the quarterback and breaking up passes downfield. This resulted in a turnover on downs for Dickinson with merely three minutes left in the game. The following three minutes were yet another rushing clinic by Holden and Fresses, with a little help from Jalen Bradford who captured two first downs and ran out the clock.

The Bears walked out of this rivalry game with a massive W that moved them to fourth in the Centennial Conference standings and granted them an opportunity for a home bowl game against Stevenson University in the MAC Conference on November 18th. Come support our Bears as they look to add yet another game to the win column this season!