September 24, 2018
By: Sean Fritz
Muhlenberg first-year head coach Nate Milne urged his team to play for a full 60 minutes in their preparation for Juniata College this week. Milne certainly got through to his team because Saturday's 62-7 blowout win at Scotty Wood Stadium was the team's most complete performance of the young season.
The offense looks as well-oiled as they were a season ago and sophomore quarterback Mike Hnatkowsky is in complete control of the unit. I spoke with him following the game Saturday and he talked about the importance of a balanced offensive attack and that is exactly what they got as the offense totaled 517 yards in the win. Hnatkowsky had a heck of a day through the air completing 23 of 27 passes for 278 yards and four touchdowns. The Mules rushing attack collected 227 yards on the ground to go along with four more touchdowns. A margin of 51 yards between passing and rushing totals is as balanced an attack as one can find and the committee approach was more than effective for the Mules ground game that included a total of eight different ball carriers.
Anytime an offense can put up 62 points and more than 500 yards of total offense, I would say 99 percent of the time that team will come out on top, but not to be forgotten was a Muhlenberg defense that came out fighting at the start of the game and seemed to get stronger as the game rolled on. The Mules' defense got off to an outstanding start to its season in their opener against Dickinson College two weeks ago, holding the Red Devils to just three points in the win. Last week was a tale of two halves against Susquehanna, however, as the Mules' secondary was attacked in the second half allowing the River Hawks to pass their way back into the game after Muhlenberg had established a three possession lead by halftime. Ultimately, the defense worked out of the sticky situation in the 37-34 overtime win, but they would have a lot to focus on against a Juniata team that loves to throw the football.
Coach Nate Milne was more than pleased with his defense after Saturday not only for holding Juniata's offense to just 7 points in the blowout victory, but for their full 60-minute effort in which every facet of their defense played well. The pass rush created havoc in the back field all afternoon and the secondary played lights out while the front seven completely eliminated the run. The team forced three interceptions on three consecutive possessions in the second half, with the third being returned for a touchdown. They held Juniata to just 127 yards of total offense in a suffocating defensive performance. I talked with junior linebacker and captain Mickey Kober following the game and he spoke about how the defense strives for perfection but they know that's not always going to happen and it's important for them to have a short-term memory, something they demonstrated on Saturday.
Next up, they've got a date with Franklin & Marshall on Saturday who will come to Allentown undefeated as well.