The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sports

April 19, 2014

College Football: Danville's Berg stars in Bucknell's spring game

LEWISBURG — It was sometime in the first half when Bucknell’s Blue squad was down in the red zone that quarterback Anthony DelRusso tried to hit one of his receivers in the front corner of the end zone. Bret Berg saw it and darted to the receiver, diving and getting his hand out to tip the ball away.

It may only have been an annual spring game, but the Danville grad played as if the Patriot League title was on the line.

Berg, a Bucknell rising sophomore safety and Ironman graduate, was credited with nine total tackles on the night, including one tackle for loss. Five of the nine were credited as unassisted tackles. Berg also never left the field during the Blue-Orange spring game, staying on defense the entire night, playing for both the Blue and Orange squad.

“Bret Berg had a great spring for us and it’s great to see a kid like that who we weren’t sure what kind of player he was going to be, but he works his tail off and it shows on the field. He has shown that he can play at this level,” Bucknell coach Joe Susan said. “I caught hell from some Danville alums (saying) ‘Why didn’t you recruit him harder?’ Maybe they were right. It’s the evolution of the kid between 18 and 19, and development of that kid. It’s good to see that.”

“The other thing too (is) when you make plays, you start having confidence, and that’s so important in this game, especially in the secondary,” Susan added. “You got to have thick skin and a short memory playing in the secondary.”

The Danville graduate almost recorded an interception halfway through the fourth quarter and had a nice pass breakup with 1:45 left in the game.

While Berg was a presence on defense, offensively, quarterback RJ Nitti played superb for the Orange squad. Nitti, a 6-foot-4 rising sophomore quarterback, threw for 253 yards on just 10 completions while tossing three touchdown passes. All three of Nitti’s scores were from at least 46 yards out, including a long of 64 to sophomore Will Carter.

The Orange built up a 17-0 lead before a 20-yard Derek Mauerer field goal with five seconds to play until halftime made it a 17-3 game at the break. Nitti tacked on his final touchdown pass to begin the fourth quarter, hitting Josh Brake on a 46-yard strike to make it 24-3.

Both Carter and Josh Brake recorded 100-plus receiving yards.

“Performance of RJ Nitti is continually improving. He’s just got to understand where there’s a time you take a sack or throw it away, not just throw it, but he’s gotten better with that,” Susan said.

A large part of that offensive success came from the front five blocking for the Orange. In addition to the air attack, Bucknell’s two squads combined for 136 rushing yards, 70 coming from the Orange squad. Matt DelMauro led the way with 66 rushing yards on 11 carries.

“Everybody’s coming back (on the offensive line). We got some great guys coming back, so it’s great,” Nitti said.

Bucknell’s offensive line not only allowed Nitti success through the air, but also protected Blue quarterback Trey Lauletta, who threw for 165 yards. Neither quarterback was sacked in the spring game.

“You hit some deep balls, which is a good thing, but then you give up some deep balls, which isn’t a good thing. So it’s the balance of that,” Susan said.

While Susan believes there are parts of the game that can be improved upon after watching the spring game — “it’s obvious we’re not ready to play an entire game” — one thing he’s happy about is the defensive line’s effort.

“The ability to play a lot of guys on that defensive line is so important at any level of football. If we can rotate eight guys in, it puts them in fresh against offensive linemen that aren’t rotating,” Susan said.

The Bison went 6-5 last season, ending the year on a 5-1 run after a disappointing 1-4 start.

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