Dec. 5, 2009

Sidebar: Budzinski Keys Mount Union Defense


By Marty Gitlin
Special to

Lambert Budzinski arrived at Mount Union Stadium today as a backup defensive lineman.

He left as a hero.

The senior keyed the Purple Raiders’ 55-3 defeat of Albright College in an NCAA Division III football quarterfinal with four sacks. Not bad considering one could find his season total entering the game in the middle of a doughnut. Budzinski’s teammates added three more sacks for a season-high seven.

“I was in the right place at the right time when the opportunities presented themselves,” Budzinski stated modestly. “On three of the four sacks we were running some sort of stunt up front and we made the quarterback step up. I was able to drag him down. There was only one sack that came off a straight pass rush.”

Budzinski certainly found an opportune time to wreak havoc – not just because it was a playoff game. Mount Union quarterback Kurt Rocco, who had thrown just six interceptions in 2009, heaved two in back-to-back possessions in the first quarter, thereby threatening the team’s 7-0 lead. Budzinski registered one sack after the first theft, then two more following the second one.

The latter two took place on successive plays. Budzinski yanked down Albright quarterback Tanner Kelly for a 3-yard loss, then again for a 9-yard loss that pushed the Lions back to midfield. The inspired Purple Raiders then responded with a scoring drive that gave them a 14-0 lead.

His efforts prevented the Lions from ever gaining momentum. The Purple Raiders, whose current 28-game winning streak is the longest in any division in the nation, scored touchdowns on six of their next seven possessions to turn the game into a rout.

“That (Budzinski) did a nice job,” said Albright coach John Marzka. “They do such a nice job of mixing up their fronts and creating confusion. It’s hard enough to pick up blitzes, but Mount Union just had too much speed for our guys up front. Our quarterback (Tanner Kelly) didn’t have one of his better games, but he was getting hit every time when he was throwing the ball.”

The Raiders bent at times, but didn’t break, yielding just a 26-yard field goal early in the second quarter. The Lions were forced to try to convert on two fourth-down plays deep in Mount Union territory after falling hopelessly behind, but to no avail. Budzinski registered his fourth sack early in the fourth quarter after Albright had finally held defensively.

The unsung heroes, however, were the Purple Raider defensive backs, who prevented receivers from working their way open. The secondary came up with big play after big play. Meanwhile, Kelly was forced to scramble, giving Budzinski and his buddies a number of opportunities to track him down.

“Good coverage can force any good quarterback to hold onto the ball a little bit longer,” said Mount Union coach Larry Kehres. “That’s a good Albright quarterback and his statistics prove it. He stepped up to throw, not to run. But our defensive linemen were quick enough to react and got to him.”

Budzinski certainly did the majority of the defensive damage, but he did receive help from Judd Lutz, Nick Driskill and Zac Saum, all of whom contributed sacks or half-sacks. Meanwhile, Alex Ferrara paced the Purple Raiders with seven tackles. Mount Union finished the game with a whopping 12 tackles for losses.

That wasn’t exactly in Albright’s game plan.

“We certainly didn’t expect to lose and to lose by such a wide margin,” Marzak said. “Mount Union is a great team and they’re extremely well-coached. But the number of mistakes we made today were impossible to overcome.”

That is, thanks greatly to Budzinski, the hero of the day for a team that seems to have plenty of them every time they take the field.