Football secures first shutout since 2011 against Marist

Doug Hendry, Sports Editor

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A suffocating performance by the Bison defense helped claim the first shutout for the football team since almost three years ago against Fordham. This time around, the shutout was a 22-0 victory at Marist on Sept. 6 that raised the team’s record to 2-0.

After allowing 38 points to VMI in the season-opener, improved defense was certainly an emphasis for head coach Joe Susan and defensive coordinator Matt Borich. The defense allowed only 138 total offensive yards, including a stifling 19 rushing yards.

“The fact that we were able to get pressure on their QB with just a four-man rush allowed our DBs and LBs to play much more freely in coverage, without the worry of having to stop the run or playing deep routes on pass plays,” defensive lineman Demetrius Baldwin-Youngblood ’15 said.

Baldwin-Youngblood and defensive end Doug Whitlock ’18 recorded two sacks each, while linebacker Evan Byers ’15 led the defense with six tackles, just a week after recording a career-high 23 tackles against VMI.

“We felt that we did not play up to our potential against VMI and wanted to make a statement against Marist,” Whitlock said. “We had a huge emphasis during the week of getting a great pass rush and denting back the offensive line.”

The Bison were just as impressive offensively, gaining 462 offensive yards. Quarterback R.J. Nitti ’17 completed 21 of 31 passes for 241 yards and two touchdowns, as well as his first 10 attempts. The efficiency of the passing game helped open up the box for running back C.J. Williams ’17, as he ran wild for his sixth-career 100-yard game with 161 yards and one touchdown on 27 carries. Williams, who now has 325 rushing yards on the season, ranks second in the nation in rushing out of all FCS teams.

With the offensive success, the Bison went up 19-0 after the first half. Nitti connected on a 16-yard pass to Bobby Kaslander ’16 in the first quarter. The Orange and Blue dominated the two-minute drill as well, with Williams and Will Carter ’17 scoring on 12-yard plays in the final two minutes of the first half.

Marist never got its offense going, as linebacker Lee Marvel ’15 put salt in the wound with a 31-yard interception return. The Bison controlled time of possession, holding the ball for 20:39 in the second half. The Marist offense saw the field for only 2:30 in the final quarter.

“Being a part of the 2011 defense that pitched the shutout against Fordham in 2011, it really speaks to what Bucknell Defense has been and continues to be about,” Baldwin-Youngblood said.

Still, the defense will be celebrating a game in which there was a 38-point differential in points allowed from week one to week two.

“It’s pretty exciting to get the first shutout since 2011. We have a lot of talent across the entire defense, and we knew we were capable of playing how we did. It’s just nice to know that we were able to prove ourselves in the game and put that performance on film,” Whitlock said.

The Bison will have a week off before they put their undefeated record to the test at Sacred Heart at 1 p.m. on Sept. 20.

“Anytime you can hold the other team to zero points, it’s a good feeling,” Byers said. “We enjoyed the bus ride home but we have a tough opponent coming up in Sacred Heart that we have to be ready for.”

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