Football Takes Care of Business at F&M

Mules come out with win ahead of conference deciding game vs Susquehanna

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Michael Feaster '22 diving into the end zone. Photo courtesy of Muhlenberg Athletics

With only two more regular season games left, the Mules (7-1) came out with a 27-10 victory at Franklin and Marshall College (3-5) to set up a conference deciding game at Susquehanna University (7-1) next week. 

The Mules defense and offense were clicking the whole game, with the team totaling 299 yards of offense and holding Franklin and Marshall (F&M) to 194 yards and two out of 15 third-down conversions. This momentum will certainly help going into next week. “F&M was a great test for our team as we face good teams on the road, back-to-back weeks. Also, what helped this week was the readiness of players to step into a role,” said Head Coach Nate Milne. “We had some injuries on the defensive line and in our special teams, and at the end of the day, the players who came in met our standard and showed they are ready to compete.” 

It was an all-around great performance for the team that came in and executed both their offensive and defensive game plans. “The focus this week in practice was to stop the run. They are a run-first team and we thought it was going to rain, which would have made them favor the run even more,” said captain Joshua Barnett ‘22, who had a career-high of 15 tackles against F&M. 

“From an offensive point of view, we didn’t really know how they were going to come out [defensively] and play us so we were just focusing on being as efficient as possible with our bread and butter plays,” said Michael Feaster ‘22, who had eight catches for 112 yards and a touchdown. “F&M is a very good opponent that always plays fast and hard. With Susquehanna coming up next week, a big message was to stay grounded and live in the moment playing hard-nosed football week by week.” 

This game will certainly help the team going into next week, when games have more meaning than at the beginning of the season.      

There is currently a three-way tie for first place in the Centennial Conference (CC). Next week’s games are the biggest of the season, with the Mules going to Susquehanna and Johns Hopkins (7-1) and playing Dickinson (3-5) at home. 

With the Mules victory, as well as a tad bit of help from Johns Hopkins  beating Susquehanna 38-17, the CC championship title is still up for grabs for all three teams. However, the Mules can control their own destiny. Win out and get in.  

It’s safe enough to say that these two games will decide who will become the Centennial Conference champion and get an automatic bid to the Division III playoffs. In order to secure a CC championship, a team needs to finish the regular season with the best conference record; there is no championship game. The team knows how big their next game is in terms of both conference and playoff implications. 

“There’s really nothing better than games like next Saturday. The morale and energy in the locker room feels similar to when we played that team from Baltimore [Johns Hopkins] a couple weeks ago,” said Feaster. “Championship games always bring the best out of everyone and we’re all ready to get back to work this week and get after it on Saturday.”  

Barnett is on the same wavelength as his teammate. “We are all excited every time we play Susquehanna. It’s a battle. We are looking forward to another game that pushes us physically. Every game is a playoff game for us because we have to win out, so we are playing this game as if it was our last.” 

Even with the pressure of next week, Barnett knows his team is capable of withstanding their next challenge to their championship climb. “What stood out to me was our team’s next play mentality. We all made mistakes, but we shook them off, lined up and continued to play hard.”

Feaster knows that if they want to pull out with a win, the team has got to execute as they have all season. “Next week, we have to win the turnover ratio as a team. Stealing possessions from Susquehanna and capitalizing as an offense is crucial to the team’s success,” he said. “With a championship game like this, all three phases need to make a big play to turn the momentum and tide of the football game. Playing mistake free football is something we need to do.” 

Games like these always test a team’s character, and this will certainly be a test for the Mules. However,  they have stepped up in all their games this season. If they play their kind of football and stick to their game plan, they have shown how great they are.  

Even with a great game, the team will always look to improve with the toughest portion of the season coming up. “There are always things to work on. We need to be much better in our run offense. At the end of the game, we had two chances to end the game by running the ball for a few first downs and we came up short on both occasions,” said Milne.   

Everyone knows what next week’s game means, but Milne is making sure they are staying focused and not overthinking what is coming up. “For our team, it’s another playoff game. It has been Muhlenberg versus everyone else since we lost early in the season. Our team has had tremendous focus and I expect the same this weekend,” he said.

This will be the biggest game of the season for the Mules and will certainly show the great character of this team. With the title up for grabs, they travel over to Selinsgrove, PA to clash with Susquehanna on Nov. 6 at 1 p.m.

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