2023 Susquehanna University vs Juniata

Goal Post Trophy Game Preview: Susquehanna Vs. Juniata

Goal Post Trophy Game Preview: Susquehanna Vs. Juniata

It’s been exactly 100 years since Susquehanna and Juniata first met on a football field. This weekend they will meet again for the Goal Post Trophy Game.

Oct 12, 2023 by Briar Napier
Goal Post Trophy Game Preview: Susquehanna Vs. Juniata

Just because the Landmark Conference is playing its first season of football doesn’t mean that it’s without the rivalries and hatred cultivated through decades of history.

Look no further than Susquehanna-Juniata this weekend for a prime example of what the Landmark brings to the table in conference play.

Separated by about 80 miles in central Pennsylvania, the towns of Selinsgrove and Huntingdon hold the home campuses of the River Hawks and Eagles, respectively, and the two schools annually play on the gridiron for one of the more unusual trophies in college football, regardless of level.

It’s also a rivalry, however, that’s been firmly controlled by one team for years on end, and it’d be no surprise if the team in question kept that run going following this weekend. Still, Susquehanna and Juniata’s histories together are heavily tied to a mammoth upset, however, so don’t think something that would go against all expectations Saturday would be completely unprecedented.

It’s been exactly 100 years since Susquehanna and Juniata first met on a football field. A century on, a new era of the Goal Post Trophy Game will commence in just a few days.

Here’s a look at what to watch out for as Juniata hosts Susquehanna this weekend, with kickoff scheduled for 1 p.m. (ET) Saturday on FloFootball:

Ramblin’ River Hawks

Is there anyone out there in the Landmark who can stop Susquehanna right now? D3football.com’s No. 12-ranked team in its most recent national poll, the River Hawks were the league’s preseason favorites and are playing like it as a must-watch, high-octane squad. 

They’ve scored an incredible 119 combined points in their first two wins ever in Landmark play against Catholic (a 50-21 win) and Keystone (69-0), scoring a season-high point total against the Giants and breaking the school record for consecutive regular-season victories with 17, snapping a mark that had originally been in place since the late 1980s. 

The run has been heavily thanks to Susquehanna’s lethal rushing attack, which is the league’s best in terms of yards per game (234) by a significant margin as Wilkes is second with just 149.3. Against Keystone in particular, the River Hawks only needed 157 total passing yards to take care of business in the shutout as they scampered for an eye-popping 380 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground, with Landmark rushing leader Tommy Grabowski running for 144 yards on 16 carries and a score in the process. 

What will make SU’s trip to Juniata perhaps a little bit different in terms of preparation, however? It’s the annual Goal Post Trophy Game between the two rivals, with Juniata and Susquehanna battling for a literal piece of goal post taken from SU’s field by rowdy Juniata fans following an Eagles upset victory in 1952. 

With the added animosity to the ball game, crazy things can definitely occur, but this is also a River Hawks team that hasn’t lost a regular-season game in nearly two years nor a regular-season game to an unranked opponent since 2018 that we’re talking about here. It may very well be a question of not just if Susquehanna will roll over its rival, but by how much.

Mountain to Climb

Juniata had a bye week this past weekend, and it needed it. The Eagles entered the off week 1-4 with a pretty uncompetitive result in its Landmark opener, a 63-14 drubbing by Wilkes in which they allowed 725 yards of total offense on Sept. 30. 

Rivalry background and history aside, Juniata should still put up a bigger fight than Keystone did against Susquehanna this weekend considering that a common opponent that the Giants and Eagles had in back-to-back weeks — Hartwick College of the Empire 8 Conference — saw the Hawks defeat Keystone at home before losing to Juniata on the road by identical 31-21 scorelines. 

Still, the Eagles have a lot of things to figure out on both sides of the ball, and it starts with building back an offense that’s only averaged a measly 14.4 points per game thus far, the lowest mark in the Landmark. 

Quarterback play has been an issue as the Eagles have a league-least four touchdowns through the air this season and have bounced around two signal-callers, graduate student Noah Wright and junior Calvin German, off and on through games in 2023, though Wright had the strongest performance from a Juniata quarterback yet against Wilkes as he went a solid 16-for-21 passing for 226 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions.

 Together with top tailback Hunter Wolfley, who is tied for second in the conference with five rushing touchdowns so far, it’s not a bad one-two punch for the Eagles to have when everything is clicking. Of course, Juniata’s defense needs to hold its own in order for the Eagles to win more games, too, and 41.2 points allowed on average entering the Susquehanna game doesn’t exactly inspire confidence that their offense can keep up if the game turns into a shootout quickly. 

A Great Eight?

In what’s been complete domination of the Goal Post Trophy Game over much of the past decade, Susquehanna has won seven straight matchups against Juniata with at least 60 points scored by the River Hawks in each of the past three meetings. 

Their most recent matchup was particularly special for SU — it clobbered the Eagles 66-15 in last season’s regular-season finale to complete a perfect 10-0 regular season and capture the Centennial Conference championship (where Susquehanna played before joining the Landmark for its inaugural football season) for the first time in its history. 

Now that they’re both in the Landmark, the River Hawks will be looking to hammer their arch-nemesis once again in their first meeting in their new league, and it’s hard to imagine any other scenario happening Saturday unless something completely disastrous for Susquehanna happens. 

For the Eagles, their path to pulling off a massive upset has got to start with what they do well: move the ball well on offense in spurts in order to build positive momentum quickly. 

Juniata did it no better this season than in the second half against Hartwick when the Eagles, down 14-3 at the intermission, scored 28 consecutive points as four different players found the endzone and Juniata picked up its first (and to date only) victory of the 2023 season. But with SU allowing only 16.3 points per game with just 12 total touchdowns given up — half the number of the second-closest school, Wilkes — scores and breakthroughs do not come easy against its defense. 

The River Hawks should fly all over the field on both sides of the ball, and if another vintage Goal Post Trophy Game performance is on the horizon, SU should put up plenty of style points in the meantime while it pulls it off.