Selinsgrove, PA – The Merchant Marine Football Team held a 21-17 advantage mid-way through the fourth quarter but Susquehanna rallied late to capture a 37-21 victory on the opening day of the 2012 football season. The Mariners held a 7-3 lead at halftime as the two teams combined for 48 points in the second half. USMMA posted 299 yards of total offense in the game, including a team high 86 rushing yards from Zachary Boucher (Wyckoff, NJ).
Merchant Marine (0-1) put up the first points of the game as the special teams made a huge play with 5:46 to play in the first half. The unit blocked a punt in Crusaders territory and Michael Biehn (The Woodlands, TX) scooped up the loose ball and scampered 20 yards to the house to make it 7-0, Mariners. The Crusaders would break onto the scoreboard on the final play of the first half as S. Hotaling knocked through a 31-yard field goal to send the two sides into the locker room at 7-3.
Susquehanna (1-0) found its way into the end zone with their first possession of the second half. The Crusaders marched 94 yards on an 11 play drive that was capped off by a Tim Wade four-yard touchdown run. However, the Mariners immediately responded with a lengthy touchdown drive of their own. John-Leon Gosselin (Nashua, NH) crossed the goal line from three yards out to propel USMMA back on top, 14-10, at the end of the third quarter.
The see-saw battle continued in the fourth quarter as Susquehanna went 63 yards on its next drive to regain the lead. Crusaders' quarterback Mark Rosenbaum found Mike Ritter with a two-yard TD pass that pushed the home side in front, 17-14.
The Mariners, who primarily run the option, found the game's next touchdown through the air. Alex Coviello (Cape Coral, FL) connected with sophomore Christopher Cook (Ventura, CA) for a 44-yard score that kept the scoreboard changing at 21-17, USMMA, with 6:28 to play. However, Susquehanna came right back and after another Rosenbaum-Ritter touchdown pass, this time from 23-yards out, the Crusaders held a 24-21 edge.
The Susquehanna defense would seal the game down the stretch with a pair of touchdowns. SU's Jack McCarty stripped Coviello, recovered the fumble and dashed 21-yards to the end zone to make it a two score game, 30-21, after a missed PAT. Jalon Scott rounded out the scoring with an interception for a pick-six with 1:12 on the clock.
The Mariners finished the game with 224 yards on the ground and were 9-for-15 (60%) on third down conversions. However, the difference in the game was in the turnover battle as Susquehanna had four take-aways to just one for USMMA. Defensively, Andrew Harmon (Jacksonville, FL) and Tyler Washington (Chatham, NY) shared the team lead with ten tackles while freshman Skyler Stone (Glen Allen, VA) secured his first collegiate interception.
USMMA will now look forward to next week's clash with Coast Guard, the most anticipated game of the 2012 season. The two teams will battle it out for the Secretaries' Cup in New London, CT at 2:30 PM.