David Mendelsohn and Sam Rosenthal
The Ursinus College Football team is following in the footsteps of last year’s team by remaining undefeated after their first three games of the season.
“We worked really hard this past offseason and in spring ball. Coming into the season we knew we were going to be able to do something special this year, and it’s been a good start so far,” senior wide receiver Alex Vera said.
The Bears have reason to set lofty goals after a historic run last year that included defeating the previously-thought unbeatable Johns Hopkins. They snapped the Blue Jays’ 45-game regular season winning streak. That streak was 40 games against the Centennial Conference.
Ursinus got off to a 5-0 start a year ago, their best kickoff in years. They even began to get some national recognition after the Hopkins game, receiving some votes in the Division III Top-25 poll.
Ultimately, last season did not end the way the team would have liked. The Bears finished with a pedestrian 6-4 record overall in 2017.
Now that they’re off to a similar start this season, they’re hoping to avoid the same falloff that led to 2017’s middling record.
The most impressive part about this year’s 3-0 record is how effortless the team has made winning look. Each of their three games have been won handily.
They blew out Bethany (W.V.) in their first game of the season, winning 34-13. The Bears were led by a great performance by junior quarterback Tom Garlick.
Garlick threw for a total of 291 yards and four passing touchdowns. He was also the Bears’ third leading rusher, going for 33 yards over 8 attempts.
The Bears saw their defense also record four sacks in the game. Junior defensive back Marcus Weathers notched two of them while seniors Matt Hartigan and co-captain Chuck Anderson each got a sack apiece.
First-year wide receiver Ryan Loughlin wrangled in three receiving touchdowns in the season opener. Sophomore running back Sam Ragland had a receiving touchdown as well. Junior Stacey Gardner had a 3-yard rushing touchdown in the third quarter to put the cherry on top of the first win of the year.
Ursinus did it again in their home opener on Sept. 8 against Gettysburg, routing the Bullets by the score of 42-7.
Garlick had another strong outing, throwing for 315 yards and 2 touchdowns on 20 completions, but it was Ragland who stole the show, rushing for 87 yards and four touchdowns.
Ragland’s four touchdown performance tied the Ursinus College record for rushing touchdowns in a single game.
Loughlin followed up his debut nicely, totaling 113 yards on six catches. Senior wide receiver Jake Clifford had 75 receiving yards on the afternoon, and senior tight end Tom Cardozo tallied 51 yards and a touchdown over the Bullets.
The Bears defense continued to shut down opponents, totaling four sacks again. Hartigan and Anderson recorded sacks in their second straight games and junior linebacker Jacob McCain recorded a sack.
Danny Freeman and Zach Goss each nabbed an interception.
It was more of the same for Ursinus in their third game on the campus of Juniata College. The Bears took the game over the Eagles 35-14.
Ragland was once again the story here. He rushed for three more touchdowns in this one while running for a total of 170 yards.
Clifford and Loughlin each had another good afternoon as well. They both recorded over 70 receiving yards and Clifford brought in his first touchdown of the season.
As for the defense, they stymied the Eagles, limiting the opposition to 275 yards of total offense on the day. Junior Nick Vandevere had two sacks.
After three games, Garlick is second in the Centennial Conference in both passing yards per game and total touchdowns, trailing just David Tammaro of Johns Hopkins in each category.
Ragland is leading the conference in rushing yards per game and rushing touchdowns. His seven touchdowns are nearly double the second-place guy, Keshon Farmer of Franklin & Marshall College (4).
Loughlin leads the Centennial in yards per game as a first-year receiver with 102.3 yards per game. He’s off to a fantastic start to his collegiate career.
“I feel really good,” Loughlin said. “Our team’s really strong. I feel like we’re going to win a lot of games. Our quarterback is very good. He’s got a great arm and our coaching staff really knows what they’re doing.”
While Laughlin credits his quarterback, his quarterback credits the coaching staff.
“It’s all about the preparation. Coach Gallagher and coach Rackovan do a great job of getting us prepared each week, so that we can perform at a high level come Saturday,” Garlick said.
The Bears are second in the conference in total sacks and lead all of the Centennial Conference in yards allowed per game at a miniscule 218.3. F&M is the next team on the list at 255 yards allowed per game.
Vera credits the coaching staff and their preparedness for their success so far.
“[They] watch countless hours of film and put a game plan together that tries to attack the other team’s main weaknesses. So far it’s been successful,” Vera said.
Garlick agreed, “The coaches prepare by watching a lot of film on the opponent. Figuring out what they are trying to do, and then forming a game plan to attack certain weaknesses that they see, is a big reason why we have been so successful.”
The Bears will play Moravian on Sept. 22 in a homecoming matchup.
Vera said, “[I] just love playing in front of the home crowd and seeing all of the people tailgating and having a great time. [I] also love wearing the all-black uniforms.”
“Taking the field at Patterson is a special feeling. There is always a good crowd and there is always a lot of energy surrounding the stadium. Playing in front of all of the people you see on a day-to-day basis makes winning the game that much more enjoyable,” said Garlick.