When Nick Palladino took over as Muhlenberg’s starting quarterback, it didn’t take “long” for him to establish who his favorite target was. Michael Long snagged eight passes against McDaniel in Palladino’s first career start and has caught at least four in every game since.
Long set a Centennial Conference record for catches by a tight end with 11 receptions for 114 yards in the Mules’ 27-7 win at Juniata. The previous mark was 10, set by Matt Knouse of Susquehanna vs. Wilkes two years ago. No CC tight end had ever reached double digits in receptions in a league game.
“It feels great,” said Long of breaking the record. “It’s ironic that it was 11 catches and I’m number 11.
“We were just running the same usual plays. They were just working better and better, and we kept going to them over and over again.”
They might have been usual plays, but the results were far from ordinary. Of Long’s 11 catches (10 from Palladino and one from Joe Carlucci), eight went for first downs, including five on third down and one on fourth down. Here’s a rundown of the record 11 receptions:
- first and 10 – 12 yards, first down (first play of game)
- third and 12 – 19 yards, first down
- first and 10 – 4 yards
- third and 2 – 4 yards, first down
- third and 4 – 11 yards, first down
- third and 8 – 14 yards, first down
- third and 2 – 5 yards, first down
- fourth and 3 – 21 yards, first down
- second and 18 – 3 yards
- second and 6 – 12 yards, first down
- third and 10 – 9 yards
Long, who leads Muhlenberg and is tied for fourth in the CC with 36 receptions, was the first Mule tight end to record a 100-yard receiving game since All-American Matt Johnson in 2007. With at least three games left, Long is within striking distance of Johnson’s CC and school tight end record of 54 catches in a season – especially if he has another day like yesterday.
Long’s productivity helped the Mules convert 14 of 23 third downs, hold the ball for almost 40 minutes and set a school record with 97 plays. And even when he wasn’t catching the ball, he was blocking for an offensive line that controlled the line of scrimmage.
“He can block, he can catch, he can run. He does it all,” said classmate Cody Geyer, who combined with Long to give Muhlenberg two 100-yard receivers for the first time since 2004. “It’s great to have a guy like that that the quarterback can rely on.
“He came in as a starter as a freshman, and he just keeps improving. I’d put him up there as one of the best, if not the best, tight ends in the conference.”