Football ends three-game losing streak in Patriot League opener against Bucknell


Photo by Charlie Berman for The Lafayette

Junior lineman Mike Barr celebrates after lead blocking for junior Rent Montie’s go ahead QB sneak touchdown.

The opening stretch of games for the Lafayette football team (2-3 overall, 1-0 Patriot League) has been a gauntlet. Escaping with a win against Sacred Heart to open the season, Lafayette dropped the next three games to Temple, William & Mary and Penn. The Maroon and White bounced back this weekend, however, to take care of business against Bucknell (0-4 overall, 0-1 Patriot League) for Coach John Troxell’s first Patriot League win, 24-14.

“We could not leave Bucknell without a win,” junior offensive lineman Mike Barr said. “After losing the last three games we knew we had a must-win game ahead of us to shift the energy on the team [and] to start us off on the right track in league play.”

The matchup marked the 100th game played between the two schools, and the opening quarter recalled some of their pre-pass matchups with pouring rain limiting both offenses to zero points.

Following a three-and-out on the Leopards’ first drive and a defensive stop against Bucknell deep in their own territory on fourth down, junior quarterback Rent Montie led Lafayette down the field at the end of the first quarter. Montie made his first start of the season as quarterback after freshman Ryan Schuster’s injury at Penn last week.

Once the quarter ended, however, the rain picked up and the Leopards’ offense stalled in the red zone, forcing them to settle for a field goal which put them up 3-0. That score marked the first time in eight quarters that the Maroon and White put points on the board.

The defense immediately responded by holding the Bison to a three-and-out, and the offense took over with great field position thanks to freshman running back Jamar Curtis’ 20-yard punt return. The offense failed to capitalize, however, as they faltered at the Bison’s 23-yard line and the following field goal attempt clanged off the upright.

The Leopard’s hulking defense responded with a stop, but Curtis had trouble handling the punt and Bucknell recovered his fumble deep in Leopard’s territory. That set up a quick score for the Bison, who took the lead 6-3 with five minutes left in the first half.

From that point on, it was all about the Leopards. They got the ball back and immediately started driving, with Montie completing a key third-down pass to freshman wide receiver Elijah Steward. Montie then reached the ball across the goal line on a QB sneak to put the Leopards ahead 10-6 on the last play of the half. He completed the first half 10-of-11 for 102 yards.

“Down 6-3 in the second quarter, offensively we had already proven to ourselves that we could move the ball well. We just had to get over the hump of stalling in the red zone,” Montie said. “Thankfully, we were able to get strong up front with the O-line playing their tails off and power our way in for a pair of rushing TDs.”

Members of the offensive line spoke highly of Montie’s ability to move the ball.

“[Montie] really stepped up for us this week and it was great to see him perform as well as he did. It really felt like we were moving the ball every time we got it,” Barr said. “Even when we were not scoring, we were able to stay on the field long enough for the defense to rest up a little bit, which was apparent when they came up with a few turnovers for us.”

The defense picked up where they left off in the first half as junior cornerback A.T. Ntantang picked off the Bucknell quarterback for his first career interception, setting the Leopard’s offense up with great field position just a few minutes into the second half.

“The defense played great as they have been all year. They’re able to come up with huge stops and turnovers when we need them, and being able to help them out by scoring more points was a big win for us,” Montie said.

Montie then ran a QB draw which went for a 44-yard touchdown, putting the Leopards up by their first multiple-score lead of the season, 17-6. Despite being behind an offensive line of only two seasoned linemen – Barr and senior Alex Barshaba – Montie, Curtis and sophomore running back Jermaine Conyers gained almost 200 yards on the ground.

In the fourth quarter, the Lafayette defense stepped up one more time with Ntantang coming up with his second interception. This time, he took it all the way back for a pick-six, capping a run of 21 unanswered points for the Leopards. Ntantang received Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts.

Bucknell responded with one more garbage time score and two-point conversion. Their ensuing onside kick failed as sophomore wide receiver Chris Carasia fell on the ball. One more Leopard first down put the game out of reach, and the Maroon and White left Lewisburg with a 24-14 win.

“[It] feels great, getting into league play where every week can make or break a season. Getting the win was just what we needed to right the ship,” Montie said.

Lafayette will play one more non-conference game when Ivy League powerhouse Princeton University (3-0 overall) comes to College Hill tomorrow. Kickoff will be at 12:30 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on ESPN+.