Kings Point, NY – The homecoming crowd at Brooks Stadium was treated to a 34-31 USMMA victory over RPI Saturday afternoon as quarterback Alex Coviello shined in his return from an injury with 141 rushing yards and three touchdowns. John-Leon Gosselin (Nashua, NH) ran for 90 yards and two scores as the Mariners racked up 398 yards of total offense. Merchant Marine picks up its first league win of 2012 and has now played five consecutive one possession games against the Engineers.
Merchant Marine (3-2, 1-1 Liberty) started the game off with a bang as Skyler Stone (Glen Allen, VA) stepped in front of a Mike Hermann pass on the first play from scrimmage to record his Liberty League leading fourth interception. The Mariners would not waste the opportunity as Gosselin found his way into the end zone from eight yards out to give USMMA an early 7-0 advantage.
RPI (3-1, 1-1 Liberty) would dent the scoreboard next on an Andrew Franks 23-yard field goal that made it 7-3 with 2:48 remaining in the opening quarter. After the ensuing kick-off Merchant Marine marched down the field on a ten play drive that covered 74 yards and ended on a Coviello quarterback sneak across the goal line. The Mariner defense would then stand tall again against the top ranked passing attack in the league, forcing RPI to settle for a 35-yard field goal off the foot of Franks.
USMMA took a 21-6 lead with 4:59 remaining in the half on a six-yard Coviello touchdown that capped a nine-play, 75-yard drive. However, the Engineers quick strike aerial attack would answer right back. Nick Weber hauled in a 28-yard pass from Hermann as RPI went 63 yards in four plays and 1:37 to cut the deficit to 21-13.
The Mariners offense would not be outdone and tacked up the last points before halftime. The big play of the drive was a 42-yard sprint by Colin Hinchey (Denton, TX) that went deep into Engineers territory. Coviello dove across the goal line with 1:27 on the clock to push the score to 28-13. RPI had a chance to pull closer just before the horn but a Franks 39-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right.
USMMA was forced to punt with the first possession of the second half but Patrick Clarke (Tampa, FL) fell on a RPI fumble on the Engineers first play to give the ball back to the Mariners with great field position. However, Nick Borkowski got the ball right back for RPI with an interception on the next play. Hermann then found Andrew Armato with an 11-yard strike to make it 28-20 on a play that would produce the only points of the third quarter. Hermann finished the day with 355 passing yards on 27-of-37 along with three touchdowns and one pick.
RPI continued to chip away at the margin and the USMMA defense continued to only bend, not break, against the Engineers offense. The visitors were forced to settle for a 43-yard field goal with 11:46 remaining after a 15-play drive finally stalled out.
Coviello then orchestrated a key scoring drive that chewed up over seven minutes on the clock and spanned 71-yards in 15 plays. Gosselin put the finishing touches on the march by pushing his way across the goal line from one yard out to give Merchant Marine a 34-23 cushion. RPI would force the game to go down to the wire and answered back with an eight-yard TD reception from Colas just three minutes later.
After a successful two point conversion the stage was set for a RPI onside kick with the score at 34-31. But there would be no late comeback as the Mariners secured the loose ball. Coviello sealed the game with a 22-yard run up the right sideline that gave USMMA the final first down it would need before running out the clock. The 34-31 victory also kept the Mariners perfect at home in 2012 as they improve to 2-0.
Clarke paced the USMMA defense with eight tackles while the Mariners combined for two sacks and five tackles for a loss. RPI's Wade Hansen was all over the field Saturday afternoon, recording a game high 14 tackles, eight of the solo variety. USMMA won the time of possession battle, holding the ball for 34:15, and converted 10-of-16 (63%) on third downs.
USMMA will play back-to-back home games for the first time this season as they welcome Rochester to Brooks Stadium next Saturday for a 1:00 pm kick-off.