In their first three games of the season, the Muhlenberg Football team’s defense allowed only twelve points per game. With eight returning starters that played on a unit that topped the Centennial Conference in scoring defense and held opponents to only just under eighteen points per game a season ago, it is no surprise that this year’s squad started the season off strong.
Interim Defensive Coordinator Kory David has praised the play of defensive end Travis Crawford ‘18, linebacker Jake Morra ‘18 and cornerback Nate Corvil ‘19, stating that they “have all been play-makers for us this season.” Crawford brings leadership and experience to the defense, while Morra is tied for fifth in the Centennial Conference with eight and a half tackles per game (as of Sept 25th) after missing last season due to suffering a season-ending injury in the first game and Corvil has already tallied four interceptions this year, one less than his total last year.
As a unit we lost focus, we have played well because we have leaned on each other with a put the ball down attitude. We have to keep driving forward to develop that four quarter mentality no matter what the score is.
David has also commended the growth of two upperclassmen this season. “Amir Blair ‘18 has stepped up his play this season along with inside linebacker Jack Fitzsimmons ’19, who had to battle an early season shoulder injury but has stepped up his play and has been a solid performer for the past 2 weeks.”
The unit has shown many important strengths which has propelled them to play competitively against each of their opponents. David notes “We have a lot of speed and athleticism which helps us create opportunities for takeaways, get to the quarterback, and track a ball carrier down.”
However, the unit has been hampered by injuries most notably to linebacker Mickey Kober ‘20 and cornerback George DiFiore ‘18, both of whom are returning starters and key contributors to the defense. David exclaims that the injuries have “affected our depth and guys’ ability to practice, but we are working hard to keep improving.”
Just this past Saturday, the Mules played their fourth game of the season against Centennial Conference foe Juniata. After allowing a touchdown just over a minute into the game, the Mules defense got their act together and came up with several big plays on defense, which included forcing three turnovers. On Juniata’s second possession, Fitzsimmons sacked quarterback Austin Montgomery and forced a fumble that was recovered by nose tackle Frank Cresta ‘20, which led to a Ryan Curtiss ‘20 touchdown four minutes later. At the beginning of the second quarter Daymon Fleming ‘21 picked off Montgomery to record his first career interception. After the Mules turned it over in the redzone, Nate Corvil recorded his fourth interception of the year to give the Mules a short field to work with, leading to the Mules’ third touchdown of the half.
Juniata failed to find the end zone again in the half and the Mules went into the locker room at halftime with a commanding 28-7 lead. It looked like the defense would continue to have another successful game and would be able to keep Juniata from putting up a lot of points, despite a few key injuries.
In the second half, the tides shifted on defense as Juniata to made the game more competitive. The Eagles scored thirty-three points in the second-half, including four touchdowns by Montgomery. The Mules failed to force a turnover, gave up many deep pass plays, and recorded very few tackles for losses.
Although the Mules won the game 56-40, David reflected on why the defense did not play as well as they had through the first three and a half games. “As a unit we lost focus, we have played well because we have leaned on each other with a put the ball down attitude. We have to keep driving forward to develop that four quarter mentality no matter what the score is.”
This coming Saturday, the Mules travel to Franklin & Marshall, the Centennial Conference’s leader in points per game. The Diplomats have a strong passing game that is led by quarterback Tanner Erisman and wide receivers K.J. Pretty and Dillon Alderfer. As the Mules’ defense prepares for their road test against the Diplomats, David is emphasizing the team’s one week at a time mentality and is not trying to make major adjustments for the defense. “Honestly, it’s a one week at a time mentality. We talk about going 1-0 and not looking ahead, but we will continue to work hard at the little things this week for F&M from our techniques & assignments which will lead to big plays (i.e. Sacks & Takeaways) and allow us to play fast.”
The Mules hope to continue to build on their superb season with another victory with another stellar offensive performance and a more typical poised Muhlenberg defense with a regained focus.