WORCESTER, Mass. -- The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy survived a wild encounter to win its first Landmark Conference game of the season, a 34-27 decision over Worcester Polytechnic on Saturday.
The game that had a little of everything, from six lead changes -- three in the final two minutes of the first half -- to a pair of 100-yard plus rushers for the Mariners, almost 1,000 combined yards from scrimmage for both teams and a heroic four touchdown pass performance for Worcester Polytechnic Institute at Alumni Field.
Junior quarterback Alex Coviello (Cape Coral, Fla.) led the way, rushing for a career-best 243 yards and two touchdowns, including a six-yard scoring run that gave the Mariners (2-4, 1-1) the lead for good with 10:16 remaining in the game.
Junior running back John-Leon Gosselin (Nashua, N.H.) added 166 yards on 25 carries and for one touchdown. Coviello carried the ball 27 times against WPI (2-4, 1-2).
The teams combined for 941 yards.
WPI quarterback Johny Antonopoulos completed 19-of-35 passes for 285 yards and four TDs. He was intercepted twice and sacked twice.
In a back-and-forth affair, the Mariners finally took the lead for good at 31-27 on Coviello's six-yard run, which capped an 11-play, 81-yard drive, and Richard Grennan's point after with 10:16 remaining in the fourth quarter. Grennan, who booted a 29-yard field goal in the opening period and converted two-of-three extra points, added a 34-yard FG with 1:20 left in the game to give the visitors some more breathing room.
After Grennan's first field goal lifted Kings Point into a 3-0 lead with 4:58 to play in the first quarter, the hosts struck only 19 seconds later for the first lead change on Antonopoulos's first TD pass, a 50-yard reception by Manny Cambra for a 7-3 advantage.
But the Mariners came right back, grinding out 59 yards on 11 plays, a drive that was capped by Coviello's one-yard run. After Grennan's extra point was blocked, the visitors had a 9-7 lead with 14:57 remaining in the first quarter.
It was WPI's turn to retake the lead almost five minutes later. This time the hosts culminated a 10-play, 70-yard drive with a 20-yard pass from Antonopoulos pass to Nick Bean to squeak ahead, 19-14 with 10:09 remaining in the half.
But the Mariners struck back, this time with 1:47 left in the half as Gosselin bolted for a 25-yard scoring run and a 17-14 margin, thanks to the running back's two-point conversion run.
However, WPI came right back before the halftime whistle as Antonopoulos teammed with Trevor Dunne on a one-yard scoring pass for a 20-17 lead with 34 seconds to play.
But Kings Point was not finished in the first half as Coviello completed his two lone passes of the day, first finding sophomore wide receiver Chase Dunn (Dade City, Fla.) on a 45-yard bomb, which set up a one-yard TD pass to Michael Mitchell with seven seconds to spare in the half for a 24-20 advantage.
Antonopoulos found Bean again on a 12-yard TD pass with 8:01 left in the third quarter -- sparked by Ernie Mello's 61-yard run -- for a 27-24 edge, setting up the Mariners' late heroics.
Kings Point defensive back Tyler Washington (Chatham, N.Y.) produced a key turnover, intercepting an Anotonpoulos pass at the goal line on the first play of the fourth quarter and running it back to the 19-yard line.
Merchant Marine will host the University of Rochester on Homecoming at Tomb Field in Kings Point, N.Y. next Saturday at 2 p.m.
Photo: Quarterback Alex Coviello rushed for a career-high 243 yards as the Mariners held off WPI. Photo by Shawn Antonelli.