By Todd Hummel
For The Daily Item
SELINSGROVE -- As Dickinson recovered an onside kick with 30 seconds left in the game, Saturday's forecasted rain finally started falling on Amos Alonzo Stagg Field at Nicholas A. Lopardo Stadium.
And nothing could more aptly illustrate the mood of the Susquehanna University football team.
The Crusaders dropped to 0-3, dropping a 24-21 Centennial Conference matchup to the Red Devils.
It hasn't been physical issues for Susquehanna; it's been more between the Crusaders' ears. Susquehanna committed three personal fouls, had a touchdown called back due to a hold (though they still scored on the drive), and had key a third-down conversion called back as well.
"Absolutely, it is (between ears) -- one hundred percent it is," Susquehanna coach Steve Briggs said. "That's what I just said to them. We got guys on this football team that want to play after the whistles and not between the whistles. It killed us for third week in a row.
"We've got kids playing their butts off, but it's killing us. We've got to be better. We are better, but we are a 0-3 football team. We've got a lot of things to straighten out."
Susquehanna (0-2 CC) struggled to stop Red Devils quarterback Cole Ahern, a 5-foot-8, 180-pound junior, who not only rushed for 154 yards, but completed 19 of 21 passes for 153 yards.
"We were coming in 0-2 and we knew this was going to be a huge game for both teams," Ahern said. "We needed something out of our offensive line and they played great."
The Red Devils started two freshmen -- including Lewisburg graduate Kyle Santorine at center -- and two sophomores on the offensive line.
The Dickinson offense rolled up 411 yards and converted 7 of 12 third downs, after managing just 204 and 275 yards in its first two losses while converting just 6 of 22 third downs.
"Our offensive line was just meshing and playing as a group," Santorine said of his line-mates as Dickinson rushed for 258 yards and allowed just one sack. "We were running on them and gaining confidence."
The Crusaders got off to a quick start, taking the opening kickoff 58 yards in 12 plays for a 7-0 lead on Tyler Kolmer's 1-yard quarterback sneak with 10:49 left in the first quarter.
Dickinson marched right down the field, but Jared Minori recovered a Shawn Wilson fumble to end the Red Devils' threat.
Dickinson (1-2, 1-1) tied the game on its next possession, marching 93 yards in 14 plays, a drive that consumed nearly seven minutes.
After struggling to stop the Red Devils in the first half, the Susquehanna defense got on track, forcing a punt on Dickinson's first drive. Duke Hyacinthe knifed in from the outside to block it and Quinton Gierlatowicz recovered on the Dickinson 25. Seven plays later -- all rushes by Ian Richardson -- a TD from the five gave Susquehanna a 14-7 lead with 8:52 left in the third quarter.
After three consecutive punts, the Red Devils offense got going thanks to the feet of Ahern, who had 76 yards rushing in the fourth quarter. Dickinson ran for 140 yards in the final stanza.
"(Choosing to run) was more on the play," Ahern said. "We've got a young offensive line and with an adjustment we made, they were able to get more of a push."
Dickinson put together drives of eight plays, 78 yards and 10 plays, 80 yards to salt away the game.
Shawn Wilson (22 carries, 95 yards) scored on a 21-yard TD run with 11:36 left in the game to tie the score at 14.
After Susquehanna was forced punt, Mike Capone scored from 7 yards out with 3:03 left in the game to take a 21-14 lead.
Susquehanna was forced to go for it deep in its own territory and failed. That led to a Dickinson field goal and a 24-14 advantage.
The Crusaders did get a 67-yard TD pass from Kolmer to Kwane Hayle to cut the lead to 24-21 with 31 seconds left, but Colin Rodgers recovered the ensuing onside kick to clinch the game for the Red Devils.