Mariners get stung by Yellowjackets on Homecoming, 45-16

KINGS POINT, N.Y. – The University of Rochester did its best and then some to ruin the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy's Homecoming Day on Saturday, recording a 45-16 victory over the hosts at Tomb Field.

The win in front of 2,600 at Tomb Field avenged a 48-19 loss in Rochester, N.Y. last year.

Whether it was by air or land or playing defense, the Yellowjackets (2-3, 1-2) outplayed the Mariners (2-5, 1-2) on both sides of the ball in the Liberty League encounter.

The highlight for Kings Point might have been the coin toss as Merchant Marine alumnae and retired astronaut Mark Kelly (Class of '86), participated in the ceremonial pre-game coin toss at midfield. Kelly's wife, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who is recovering from gun shot wounds suffered in an attempted assassination attempt, also attended the game.

Merchant Marine coach Mike Toop offered no excuses for the loss.

"The bottom was that they played better than we did," he said. "They were just better. They controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Generally when that happens, it's tough to win games."

After piling up 514 yards, including 468 on the ground, in last week's 34-27 win at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, the Mariners attack was stymied by the bigger Rochester defense. Quarterback Alex Coviello, who rushed for a career-high 243 yards, was held to 65 yards in 20 carries. Running back John-Leon Gosselin, who added 166 yards last week, could only muster 47 in 14 attempts. Kings Point was held to 211 yards – total – on Saturday.

"Offensively, we run this offense and what was it -- 128 yards rushing?" Toop said "You're not going to win any games. The credit goes to them and they just outplayed us."

Rochester quarterback Braezen Subick led the way, completing 13 of 21 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns – to Thomas Norman and Garrett Kesel.

"Defensively, we hung in there a little bit, but we didn't get pressure on the kid and he had a lot of time to throw the ball and make plays in the secondary," Toop said.

Or on the ground as well. Running back Clarence Onyriuka carried the ball 19 times for 89 yards. While he did not break the goal line, four of his running mates did for touchdowns – Joe Cicero (one-yard run in the second quarter  Chris Lebano (one-yard plunge in the third quarter), Subick (sox-yard scamper in the fourth quarter) and Byron Saggese (two-yard run in the fourth quarter) did.

One of the few bright spots for the Mariners, Richard Grennan kicked three field goals, including a 52-yarder with 25 seconds remaining in the first half. He also converted the extra point on the hosts' lone TD, a 36-yard TD pass from Coviello to sophomore wide receiver Chase Dunn to make the score 38-16 with 5:45 remaining in the game.

Once again the Mariners dug themselves an early hole, spotting the Yellowjackets to a 10-0 lead on Alex Antonucci's 22-yard field goal in the first period and Norman's 33-yard TD reception with 13:37 left in the first half.

The Mariners tried to make a game of it with the first of Grennan's field goals with 7:41 to go in second quarter before Cicero's one-yard TD run increased the visitors' margin to 1703.

Grennan kept Kings Point within striking distance with two more field goals, that 52-yarder late in the second quarter (the longest in Mariners history was Geoff Troy's 54-yard effort against St. Lawrence on Nov. 3, 2007) and his final FG, a 37-yarder that closed the gap to 17-9 with 8:17 remaining in the third quarter.

While Grennan's third field goal helped close the gap to 17-9 with 8:17 remaining in the third quarter, the Mariners squandered a great opportunity after Michael Mitchel's interception of  a Subick pass set the hosts up at the Rochester 23-yard line. They could move only three yards in as many plays.

"That was a key play in the game," Toop said. "But we only got three out of it and we needed seven to get us within three. That's kind of how they day won."

Earlier in the half, the Mariners squandered another opportunity after forcing a fumble on a punt return that linebacker Kevin Stapf recovered on the Rochester 38-yard line. Three plays and no yards later, Kings Point was forced to punt.

Rochester struck for four TDs in the fourth period to pull away.

"The credit goes to them and they just outplayed us," Toop said. "They were just better than us. The kids played hard. We just didn't make enough plays and that's what the game's about."

The Mariners will visit Hobart next Saturday at 1 p.m.

Photo: The Mariners endured a long afternoon against Rochester. Photo by Sean Antonelli