NORTHFIELD, Vt. (Oct. 12, 2019) – The USMMA football team came back from down 14-0 in the opening three minutes of its NEWMAC game up at Norwich University to defeat the Cadets, 30-20, and remain undefeated in conference action. The Mariners improve to 4-1 (3-0 NEWMAC) with the win, while Norwich drops to 4-2 (1-2 NEWMAC) in defeat.
The Mariners went three-and-out on the opening drive of the game and Norwich wasted little time to get on the board, scoring on a 73-yard pass from junior Matt Dunn to classmate Manni Romero on the first play from scrimmage. Merchant Marine's next possession ended on a fumble which the Cadets recovered at USMMA's 20 yard-line. Again, Dunn connected with Romero on the very first play and the PAT gave the hosts a 14-0 lead under three minutes into the game.
However, the Mariner defense settled down and did not allow another point until late in the fourth quarter. Senior Gavin Gartner (Cedar Park, Texas) hit a pair of field goals (from 40 yards and 31 yards) in the final five-plus minutes of the opening quarter and the Mariners trailed 14-6 at the end of the first.
Merchant Marine got to within two after a Cadet fumble in the end zone that sophomore Tyler Sloman (Poulsbo, Wash.) jumped on for the defensive touchdown. A two-point conversion was stopped, and the score was 14-12 in favor of the home squad at 9:53 of the second.
Sloman picked up a sack on the ensuing Norwich possession and on the very next play senior Tanner Carter (Columbiana, Ala.) picked off a pass and returned it 14 yards to the USMMA 31. The Mariners marched up the field, taking over five minutes off the clock and cashed in on a two-yard TD run by sophomore Matt Strong (Pacific, Mo.) followed by a two-point conversion by classmate Alec Kiernan (Centereach, N.Y.) and the Mariners were ahead 20-14.
Senior Greg Royal (Evergreen, Colo.) had the final big play of the first half, recording a sack on the Cadets' final possession to set up a punt two plays later and the Mariners ran out the clock to end the half with a lead.
Not much happened in the first 10 minutes of the second half, until Merchant Marine ended a 13-play, 54-yard drive with Gartner's third field goal of the day, this from 20 yards, to push the Mariners ahead 23-14.
On the first play from scrimmage on the next Norwich drive, sophomore Eric Davidson (Savannah, Ga.) picked off a pass and that led to a 12-play, 52-yard drive by USMMA that ended with a one-yard touchdown run by Kiernan, and Gartner's PAT made it 30-14 with 48 seconds left in the third.
There was one more sack for the Mariners in the fourth quarter by senior Robert Grzymkowski (Stafford, Va.) and freshman Vince Antonacci (Garden Grove, Calif.), and the Cadets scored a three-yard rushing TD by Dunn with 1:01 to play, but were unsuccessful on a two-point attempt. They attempted an onside-kick, but Davidson secured the ball and guaranteeing the victory for Merchant Marine.
The Mariners had nine players rush for 233 total yards on the ground, led by senior James Early (Middletown, Md.) who had 73 yards. Kiernan amassed 66 and the one score, while senior Tyler Reihs (Moorpark, Calif.) added 45 rushing yards. Senior QB Krystian Abbott (Lansing, _Kan.) was 7-for-8 on completions for 115 yards, with classmate Joe Vitelli (Warrington, Pa.) catching five passes for 93 yards and junior James Hutchinson (Topsfield, Mass.) hauling in two for 22 yards.
Defensively, Davidson led the Mariners with seven tackles including one for a loss, while freshman Xavier Coleman (San Ramon, Calif.) and junior Dylan Brown (Milton, Wis.) both made five stops each and Brown broke up one pass.
Norwich had 294 total yards of offense – 305 in the air and negative-11 on the ground. Dunn finished 19-for-39 for with two TDs. Romero made seven catches for 189 yards, while senior Ryan Reed had four catches for 50 yards. Defensively, sophomore Zev Motew recorded a game-high 16 tackles.
Up next, the Mariners will host Springfield College (3-3, 2-1 NEWMAC) on Saturday, Oct. 19. Kickoff is slated for 2 p.m. at Brooks Stadium. Live links to follow along are available on the USMMA Football Schedule Page.
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