Loyola football starts strong despite missing 4 starters

MILWAUKEE — Loyola used a fake punt for its first first down on its opening series, but the Ramblers didn’t need any other tricks Saturday.

Despite playing without four starters and one reserve, the Ramblers rolled to a 44-0 win over Marquette, Wisconsin at Hart Park in Milwaukee. Loyola coach John Holecek said the players were disciplined by the school for undisclosed violations and were ruled out for the first two games.

In one half of work, first-year starter DJ Melsheimer finished 15-for-18 for 191 yards and three touchdowns. As impressively, the senior quarterback didn’t turn over the ball. Senior receiver Owen Buscaglia caught six passes for 87 yards and all three TDs, highlighted by a 40-yard score late in the second quarter.

“I knew going into [the game] he would make all the right reads,” Buscaglia said. “We have great chemistry, and I have all the confidence in the world in him. I can’t say I’m surprised, but he definitely rose to the challenge.”

Loyola scored on five of its six possessions in the first half for a 34-0 lead. The Ramblers, ranked No. 2 in the Sun-Times’ Super 25, held the Hilltoppers without a first down and seven total yards in the first quarter.

“Our offense doing so well put them behind the 8-ball,” said Holecek, who noted the 6-1, 175-pound Melsheimer “did exactly what we wanted.”

Melsheimer, who started two games as a junior backing up the graduated Jack Penn, completed his first four passes to different receivers and capped it with an 11-yard TD pass to Buscaglia. The scoring series was made possible after senior Paddy Nicolau converted a fake punt.

“Our offense lets guys get wide open,” Melsheimer said. “If you make the right reads, it’s pretty easy to play quarterback. Our offense is designed to beat any defense.”

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