(Photo Credit: Aaron Raymond)
KINGS POINT, N.Y. (Oct. 17, 2015) – Coming into Saturday's action, the USMMA football team hadn't defeated Springfield College in 18 years, and it took a frantic final couple of minutes at Brooks Stadium to change that, as the Mariners edged the Pride, 22-21, for their first Liberty League win in two seasons.
With the win, Merchant Marine improves to 2-4 overall on the season (1-3 Liberty), while Springfield, which was coming off a 35-13 home win over nationally-ranked Hobart last week, falls to 4-3 (2-2 Liberty) in defeat.
Junior tight end Robert Baker (Whitinsville, Mass.) hauled in a two-point conversion to give USMMA the 22-21 advantage with just 3:14 to play in the fourth. That play came after Wiley Martin (Polo, Mo.) ran in a one-yard touchdown that capped a 12-play, 79 yard drive. The TD was set up by the previous play, a 25-yard pass by senior Matt McDaniels (Malverne, N.Y.) to classmate Dylan Crook (Milton, Vt.) that brought the ball down to the Pride's one-yard line.
On the ensuing drive after the TD, Springfield charged up-field quickly to the Merchant Marine 38-yard line on two running plays totaling 32 yards, but the Mariners made four straight stops, including a stuff on a 4th-and-3 by senior Patrick Whalen (Norwalk, Conn.) that turned the ball over on downs. All Merchant Marine had to do to secure the win was get one first down, and the Mariners did so on a six yard run by sophomore Robert Moore (Pace, Fla.) on a third-down play.
The eight points were USMMA's only of the second half, but it was enough to overcome the 21-14 deficit they faced after Springfield came out hot to start the half. The Pride scored a touchdown on their first drive of the third quarter when sophomore Jake Eglintine ran in a one-yard TD, and then they took their first lead of the day just about a minute and a half later when junior Joe Festo ran back a Mariner punt 72 yards to the end zone after a USMMA three-and-out.
Freshman Charles Deegan (Huntington, N.Y.) recovered an Eglintine fumble on the opening drive of the game, helping the Mariners get on the board first on their first possession. McDaniels hooked up with classmate David Gregory (Murrysville, Pa.) for a 32-yard touchdown pass (the duo's second TD connection of the season) capping off a seven-play, 44-yard drive, and sophomore Jake McDonough (Wilmington, N.C.) converted the PAT to give the hosts an early 7-0 lead just under five minutes into the game.
Springfield responded on the very next drive, and it took the Pride just four plays to find the end-zone. Eglintine rushed for a 45-yard TD, and then freshman Blake Heller's good PAT tied the score up at 7-7 at 8:03 of the first.
Neither team generated much on offense the remainder of the opening quarter, until Merchant Marine's first possession of the second quarter. USMMA charged 84 yards up-field in 10 plays to score, as McDaniels found a hole up the middle, fought off some pressure from the secondary and ran in a 38-yard TD on a second-down play. McDonough's PAT put the Mariners ahead 14-7.
On the ensuing next drive, the Mariners benefited from a crucial fourth-down penalty by Springfield, which was attempting a fourth-down conversion into the red zone, but were instead backed up 15 yards and were forced to punt.
The Mariner offense totaled 230 yards on the day (173 on the ground and 57 in the air). McDaniels led the ground game with 60 yards and a score, while Martin was not far behind with 49 yards and a TD. McDaniels was also 2-for-5 on completions with the one passing TD to Gregory, who had one of two USMMA catches, while the other belonged to Crook.
On defense, junior Josh Woodburn (Huntingtown, Md.) led the team with 10 tackles, while classmate Patrick Keyes (Parsippany, N.J.) made seven stops, including three for combined losses of 21 yards. Whalen had six tackles, including a sack in the first quarter for a loss of three yards.
Springfield generated 310 yards of offense (269 on the ground and 41 in the air), led by Eglintine's 114 rushing yards and two scores. Eglintine was also 1-for-3 on completions. Defensively, senior Max Nacewicz led all players in the game with 15 tackles, including two for combined losses of six yards.
Up next, the Mariners will travel to Worcester, Mass., this coming Friday, Oct. 23, for a Liberty League clash against WPI. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m., under the lights at the Engineers' Alumni Stadium. Live stats and a live video feed of the game are available by following those links.