Rucker Shines, Leads Bucknell to Outright Victory over the Red Foxes on Senior Day

Emotions ran high for the Red Foxes today, closing out the 2023 season with a senior day matchup against the Bucknell Bison for the second consecutive season. With Marist already eliminated from PFL contention and failing to get their fifth conference win against Dayton, the Red Foxes fell to the Bison 38-21.

History didn’t bode well for the matchup; the Bison have now triumphed in the last nine, matchups including a 24-13 win last season in Lewisburg, PA to end Marist’s 2022 season.

Marist’s second Patriot League opponent had a rough go at their own season, losing their final conference game in a barn burner against Georgetown in a 50-47 overtime loss.

Today, it was all junior quarterback Ralph Rucker. The Texas-born quarterback threaded the needle going 23-for-28 with 273 yards and three passing touchdowns, breaking the Bucknell single-season records for completions and passing yards while tying the passing touchdown record.

“Their quarterback is very dynamic,” said head coach Jim Parady. “He’s a guy that the game is very slow for, and he can process those things…they have some of the most dynamic skill kids in the Patriot League.”

The Bison’s high powered offense from last week poured over into the first quarter, scoring on their first two possessions with ease. The Bison wasted no time, utilizing plenty of hurry-up plays to keep the drives alive. With Rucker leading the charge, Bucknell scored on every offensive possession through the first three quarters.

Without junior quarterback Brock Bagozzi in the mix for the Red Foxes, the Bison lined up a shallow secondary to counteract redshirt sophomore quarterback Logan Brabham’s quick release and short passing ability. While the sophomore still hit throws down the middle of the field, the Red Foxes couldn’t string together first downs, and had limited big-yard plays. Though the quarterback finished with a promising statline–328 yards and three touchdowns–it was too little too late.

The Bison offense stayed fresh and swept the defense off its feet. At last, the Red Foxes looked alive in the second half. The first big play of the game in the last minutes of the second quarter, Brabham took a deep shot to spinning graduate student Mohamed Diawara, a standout in the receiving core for the Red Foxes finishing with 110 yards. The quarterback used his legs more to get down field, finishing the drive on a buzzer-beater slant passing Touchdown to Matt Stianche.

Even while attempting to prevent passing up the middle of the hash marks, Rucker continued to find his lead receiver senior Damian Harris, who capped off a stellar 177 yard performance with a 24-yard screen pass touchdown to get up 38-7 at the end of three quarters. Harris proved his dominance, breaking the team record for receptions in a single game, and one shy of the Patriot League record for most receptions caught in a single game with 15.

Despite getting two touchdowns in the fourth quarter–including a receiving touchdown from Diawara, the Bates College transfer’s first touchdown as a Red Fox–Bucknell distanced themselves to have a safe lead and gave their quarterback the rest of the day off. Backup senior quarterback Tyler Beverett played the rest of the contest for the Red Foxes, while redshirt senior Derek Bufano picked one snap for the Red Foxes, the first playing time of his career.

With the conference season already ending a week prior, the seniors became the center of attention on Parady’s squad. A class of 14 seniors and fifth/sixth-year athletes made up the opening ceremony at the beginning of the game at Tenney, a class of players brought together through the restrictions of starting their collegiate career during the COVID pandemic.

That group ended their collegiate season with a loss in their final game at Tenney Stadium, but Parady believes the performance today doesn’t define the group.

“The loss will fade, [but] it’s their friendships that will carry them on. That’s one of the beauties of I think the Marist football program is that they keep those relationships going long, long after they leave here,” said Parady.

Though the season has concluded, Parady focused more on the preparation and thoughts on today’s game rather than on goals met for the season.

“I think I really got to take a couple of days to kind of go back in and look at the year,” said Parady. “We’ll touch on some of them tomorrow in a team meeting for the end of the year and some of those things that we achieved.”

With the loss, another Red Fox season comes to an end with a defeat to Bucknell, falling to 1-14 all-time against the Bison.

“I just hate losing,” said redshirt junior Tristan Shannon about the loss, who was a part of the pregame ceremonies for Senior Day. Shannon reflected on his four years on the program as a Red Fox. 

“I got about 125 other brothers that are on call or whatever. That’s very special to me. Football is a lot more than just waking up and playing football every day. You have to change your mindset, change your habits, change your perspectives on a lot of things so that you can be successful,” said Shamnon.

Despite a promising start, injuries to the most significant leaders on both offense and defense–Bagozzi and graduate student linebacker Mike Arrington–keep the team hovering below the .500 line at 4-6 with a 4-4 conference record. The Red Foxes will have to regroup for another offseason before proving they can improve their record in the PFL.

Edited by Jimmy Tsiantoulas

Photo by Jaylen Rizzo

Graphic by Ben Monrad

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