The start to Jake Pugh’s tenure as Washington & Jefferson’s quarterback may have been less than ideal.
After starting his sophomore campaign a season ago splitting time under center for the Presidents, the 2021 Thomas Jefferson graduate eventually ascended to become the full-time starter over his team’s final three games.
“When there’s a competition like that, we were pushing each other every day to be better,” Pugh said. “Every day I had another person there that I was comparing myself to. Did I do this better? Did I do that better? What do I need to improve on?
“Now, it’s more of a self motivation,” he added. “You just don’t want to let the team down.”
Pugh has yet to do so in 2023.
After entering his junior season as W&J’s unquestioned starting quarterback, the 5-foot-11, 195-pound junior has responded by completing 62-of-90 passes for 1,016 yards, 13 touchdowns and just one interception, which are all tops statistically in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference. He is averaging 254 yards per game and completing 69% of his passes, which is good for the fifth-best completion percentage in the nation across Division III.
“I feel like I’m surrounded by the best coaches, the best athletes on the field that make my job way easier,” Pugh said. “While the stats look like it’s an individual thing, it’s really not. I feel like the connection I have with our receivers, the start that we’ve had was totally expected and I hope that we can continue that for the rest of the year.”
Pugh kept his fast start to the season going Saturday as he completed 14 of 19 passes for 187 yards with three touchdowns and one interception, to go along with a score on the ground to lead W&J to a 56-14 PAC victory against Thiel at Cameron Stadium in Washington.
“He’s a terrific leader,” W&J coach Mike Sirianni said. “He’s a coach’s son. His uncle is a coach. He played in a program like TJ. Obviously, all those are factors. He’s a captain as a junior. I thought he had really good leadership skills last year when he went in as a sophomore. We can’t take credit for that. That’s something that he was raised to do both by his family and his coaches at Thomas Jefferson.”
For Pugh, though, his development has everything to do with his time at W&J. He said he has continually become more comfortable in the pocket and felt the game slow down as he has gained more experience.
“I think I’ve developed better understanding what coach is going to do, what plays he is going to run in certain scenarios, what he likes to do in certain situations, just like have a better understanding of his tendencies,” Pugh said. “That has led me to better prepare myself to expect certain things or be ready to do things in different ways.”
And the Presidents’ offense has responded.
Receiver John Peduzzi led W&J (4-0) with five catches for 96 yards and three touchdowns against Thiel (1-3), while Anthony Rosati added six catches for 66 yards and Laurel graduate Kobe Derosa contributed a team-high 58 yards on the ground.
Peduzzi has a team-high 417 receiving yards and eight touchdowns for W&J on the season, while Bentworth graduate Owen Petrisek is leading the Presidents’ rushing attack with 209 yards and four scores, including one against Thiel.
With such a command of his offense, Sirianni said he expects his quarterback to remain among one of the best in the nation. He said if Pugh’s statistical output remains on its current trajectory, along with the Presidents’ undefeated record, the sky is the limit for his quarterback.
“Your team better go into the playoffs,” Sirianni said. “They don’t name All-American quarterbacks unless you win conference championships and playoff games. We need to win, and I think he knows that, and he understands that, and I think that’s more important to him.”
Undefeated Grove City hands No. 14 Carnegie Mellon first regular-season loss since 2021
Peters Township graduate Logan Pfeuffer accounted for all three of Grove City’s touchdowns as the Wolverines snapped No. 14 Carnegie Mellon’s regular-season win streak at 20 games with a 21-14 victory Saturday night at Robert E. Thorn Field in Grove City.
The last time the Tartans lost a regular-season game was Sept. 18, 2021, when Grove City handed Carnegie Mellon a 13-6 loss.
Pfeuffer led the Wolverines to a 21-0 advantage in the third quarter. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound junior completed 16-of-30 passes for 229 yards and a touchdown, while also rushing for 27 yards and two touchdowns on six carries.
Knoch graduate Scott Fraser caught Pfeuffer’s lone touchdown pass, a 3-yard scoring strike, which made the Wolverines’ lead 21-0 with 7:13 left in the third quarter. West Allegheny graduate Nico Flati rushed for a team-high 49 yards for Grove City (4-0).
Although it fell down by three scores, Carnegie Mellon (3-1) would respond with a 1-yard, third-quarter touchdown run by sophomore Joey McGinnis IV before Tartans quarterback Ben Mills threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Kaveh Wojtowich with 1:15 left in the game.
It was as close as Carnegie Mellon would get.
Mills threw for 176 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions. Running back Tre Vasiliadis carried the ball 21 times for a game-high 98 yards for the Tartans.
Westminster outrushes Waynesburg for victory
Westminster traveled to Waynesburg Saturday, and the Titans outgained the Yellow Jackets, 193-155, on the ground en route to a 31-20 PAC victory at John F. Wiley Stadium.
Running back Ryan Gomes rushed for a game-high 136 yards and one touchdown for Westminster (2-2), while Jordan Lowe added 38 yards and another score.
Derry native Justin Flack led Waynesburg (0-4) with 78 yards on the ground. Quarterback Samuel Barber threw for 261 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions for the Yellow Jackets, while Moon graduate Ty McGowan racked up 135 yards, two scores and two interceptions through the air for the Titans.
Unbeaten No. 12 Slippery Rock opens PSAC play with win against Seton Hill
After a slow start, No. 12 Slippery Rock exploded for 28 unanswered points Saturday to emerge with a 35-14 victory against host Seton Hill in its Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West Division opener at Offutt Field in Greensburg.
Slippery Rock quarterback Brayden Long threw for 213 yards and three touchdowns with an interception and rushed for a 2-yard score, while wide receiver Kyle Sheets caught nine passes for 85 yards and a touchdown. Cohen Russell and Logan Ramper also caught touchdown passes for the Rock.
Running back Chris D’Or had a game-high 93 yards on 13 carries for Slippery Rock (4-0), which also received a touchdown run from Isaiah Edwards against Seton Hill (1-3).
Quarterback Hayden Teska, a Greensburg Salem graduate, threw for 68 yards and a touchdown to lead the Griffins’ offense. He connected with fellow Greensburg Salem product Cody Rubrecht for an 11-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown.
Connellsville native Ky’Ron Craggette rushed for a team-high 73 yards with a touchdown on 16 carries for Seton Hill.
Black leads Cal U to bounce back win against Edinboro
Sophomore quarterback Davis Black threw for 219 yards, one touchdown and one interception Saturday to lead California University of Pennsylvania to a 31-10 PSAC victory against host Edinboro at Sox Harrison Stadium one week after the Vulcans dropped their first game of the season to No. 13 Shepherd.
Junior receiver Omari Hopkins caught six passes for 121 yards and a touchdown for Cal (2-1), and Eric Willis III had 83 receiving yards and a score. McKeesport graduate Bobby Boyd Jr. had a game-high 55 yards on the ground for the Vulcans against the Fighting Scots (1-3), while teammate Eric McKan III rushed for 35 yards and two touchdowns.
No. 19 IUP opens PSAC West play with rout of Mercyhurst
Quarterback Karst Hunter threw for 142 yards and rushed for 80 yards and two touchdowns to lead No. 19 Indiana University of Pennsylvania to a 30-13 PSAC West victory against Mercyhurst Saturday at Saxon Stadium in Erie.
Running back Dayjure Stewart rushed for 61 yards ,and Adam Houser added 36 yards and one touchdown on the ground for the Crimson Hawks (3-1), while Lakers (1-3) quarterback Adam Urena threw for 156 yards and two scores.
Receiver Rylan Davison caught a game-high five passes for 77 yards and two touchdowns for Mercyhurst.
Robert Morris explodes for second win of season
Bethel Park graduate Anthony Chiccitt completed 11-of-16 passes for 251 yards and four touchdowns to lead Robert Morris to a 46-0 victory Saturday against Lynchburg at Joe Walton Stadium in Moon.
Chiccitt found receiver Noah Robinson six times for 139 yards and a touchdown to lead Robert Morris (2-2) past Lynchburg (0-4) and to its second win in three weeks. He also connected with Landen Lucas on a 66-yard scoring strike, tight end Chaese Jackson for a 34-yard touchdown pass and Kimon O’Sullivan for a 21-yard touchdown pass.
Colonials backup quarterback Zin’tayvious Smith completed a 69-yard touchdown pass to Andre Cooper.
Pitt falls to No. 17 North Carolina in ACC opener for third straight loss
Junior running back Rodney Hammond Jr. rushed for 83 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries, while receiver Konata Mumpfield had 8 catches for 90 yards, but Pitt (1-3) was unable to hang with No. 17 North Carolina (4-0) in a 41-24 loss Saturday night at Acrisure Stadium.
Tar Heels quarterback Drake Maye completed 22-of-30 passes for 296 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for a pair of scores.