Mike Donnelly became the first football coach in Muhlenberg history to reach the 100-win mark when the Mules defeated Franklin & Marshall, 21-0, on September 8. He finished the 2012 season with a career record of 106-64 and nine postseason berths in 16 years. Here, in chronological order, are 20 noteworthy wins from Donnelly’s first 100.
By Mike Falk, Sports Information Director
1 at Swarthmore (60-14), Oct. 11, 1997
Paraphrasing Lao-tzu, a journey of 100 wins begins with a single step. And this was the first for Donnelly after four losses to start his career. The Mules rolled up 474 rushing yards – 246 by 2011 Athletic Hall of Fame inductee Jason Brader – and set a school and Centennial Conference record with 33 first downs.
4/5 at Ursinus (6-3), Oct. 11, 1997 vs. Grove City (34-31), Nov. 7, 1998
The games in back-to-back weeks ended in the same way: with Kenyamo McFarlane catching a touchdown pass in overtime on the final play of the game. The second win came against a Grove City team that included future NFL player R.J. Bowers. “The program turned the corner that day,” said Donnelly.
8/67 vs. Dickinson (30-13), Sept. 18, 1999 vs. McDaniel (43-0) Oct. 13, 2007
The Mules got two big monkeys off their backs in these two games. They had lost 11 straight to Dickinson, including a stretch of six consecutive shutout losses, before the 1999 win, which featured a school-record 471 yards passing from Michael McCabe. Although they were already established by 2007, they hadn’t beaten McDaniel since 1993 before winning in decisive fashion.
37/96 at Moravian (8-0), Nov. 16, 2002 vs. Dickinson (12-0), Oct. 29, 2011
As featured in the Winter 2012 Muhlenberg Magazine, the Mud Bowl and the Snow Bowl were two for the ages.
38 vs. Mass.-Dartmouth (56-6), Nov. 23, 2002
Muhlenberg’s first-ever NCAA Tournament game, against a Mass.- Dartmouth team that came in 11-0 and having allowed only 80 points all season, was no contest. The Mules gained 529 total yards, with 2012 Athletic Hall of Fame inductee Matt Bernardo rushing for 174 and scoring four touchdowns.
51 at Johns Hopkins (9-6), Oct. 23, 2004
The only one of the 100 wins that Donnelly was not around for at the end. He had to leave for medical reasons during the game, but the team’s great defense (the best in Division III that season) and three field goals by Jordon Grube brought him a win.
53 at Moravian (28-14), Nov. 13, 2004
On the final day of the regular season, Muhlenberg needed six things to happen in order to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year. Remarkably, they all did, including this win against a 7-2 Greyhound team. The bid came at the end of a season filled with injuries to key players.
Fake punts have always been a key part of Muhlenberg’s repertoire under Donnelly, and in a stretch of seven games they won twice on fourth-quarter touchdowns on fake punts. Ryan Sassaman threw both passes, a 74-yarder to Ryan Merrill with 3:54 left vs. Ursinus and a 51-yarder to Matt Johnson with 9:12 left vs. William Paterson.
64 at Gettysburg (14-13), Sept. 22, 2007
Chris Swensen’s blocked field goal with 34.5 seconds left preserved the win at Gettysburg. Nobody knew it at the time, in the third week of the season, but the one-point win would be a catalyst for the first undefeated campaign in program history.
70 at Ursinus (31-7), Nov. 3, 2007
Muhlenberg came in 8-0, ranked 12th in Division III and needing a win to clinch its first outright Centennial Conference championship. Ursinus was 7-1 and ranked 10th in Division III in total defense, but the Mules put on a thoroughly dominant performance, outgaining the Bears 405-96.
72 vs. Salisbury (31-21), Nov. 17, 2007
If the wins were ranked in importance, this might be at the top of the list. Against a nationally respected program in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the Mules let a 21-7 lead slip away but scored 10 points off fumbles in the final 4:37 to earn the win.
86 vs. Gettysburg (33-27), Sept. 25, 2010 A dandy of a game on Homecoming Weekend saw the Mules fall behind 16-6 before scoring three straight touchdowns to go up 27-16 late in the fourth quarter. The Bullets closed the gap with a TD and almost stole the game in the last minute after recovering a bad snap on a punt inside the 10. But the defense forced a field goal, and Muhlenberg won in overtime on Isaiah Vaughn’s 25-yard touchdown catch.
87 at Johns Hopkins (30-27), Oct. 2, 2010 A matchup of the teams that had won outright CC championships the last two years lived up to its billing. Mark Accomando’s 38-yard interception return for a touchdown helped stake the Mules to a 30-13 lead, and they held on by intercepting a pass inside the 20 with about two minutes left.
91 vs. Ursinus (27-20), Nov. 6 2010 Clad in all-red uniforms, Muhlenberg completed an improbable run to the CC championship and NCAA Tournament a year after going 3-7. A fourth-down tackle by Kevin Ryan a yard short of the first down with 1:49 left sealed the victory.
93 vs. McDaniel (34-26), Sept. 17, 2011 Another Homecoming classic: Trailing 26-7 and totally dominated for the first three quarters, the Mules scored 27 unanswered points in the final 13:03 for the stunning comeback win.
100 vs. Franklin & Marshall (21-0), Sept. 8, 2012 An appropriate opponent for the milestone win – one of Muhlenberg’s oldest rivals, coached by Donnelly’s former assistant, John Troxell. And an appropriate number in the opponent’s scoring column – 19 of the 100 wins came by shutout.