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KINGS POINT, N.Y. (Oct. 6, 2018) – The USMMA football team used a strong fourth quarter to topple visiting Norwich University, 33-24, on Saturday afternoon at Brooks Stadium. With the victory, the Mariners improve to 4-1 (2-1 NEWMAC) on the season, their best start through five games since 2013, while the Cadets fall to 1-5 (0-3 NEWMAC) in defeat.
Merchant Marine was trailing 24-13 early in the fourth, but scored 20 unanswered points in the final 11 minutes to claim the win. Junior quarterback Krystian Abbott (Lansing, Kan.) passed for 126 yards on seven completions with two touchdowns, while also leading the Mariners on the ground with 75 yards. Classmate Gavin Gartner (Cedar Park, Texas) had a great day kicking for the Mariners, going 3-for-3 on field goals from 27, 37 and 42 yards, and 2-for-2 on extra points.
Junior receiver Luke Jamison (Tequesta, Fla.) caught three passes for 78 yards, including a huge 61-yard touchdown in the fourth that turned out to be the game-winner with just 4:09 to play. On that play, Abbott connected with Jamison down the left side about 20 yards from the line of scrimmage. Jamison caught it and had two defenders ahead of him, but he turned on the jets down the left sideline for the score.
The Mariners had tied the game up on their preceding drive when, down 24-16 midway through the fourth, they drove 65 yards on 10 plays and junior Joe Vitelli (Warrington, Pa.) capped off the drive with a nine-yard TD reception from Abbott that brought USMMA within two. Senior Dominic Spadafore (Lodi, Calif.) ran in the two-point conversion to the left pylon to tie the score up at 24-24 with 5:44 to go. The ensuing Norwich drive resulted in a big three-and-out for the Mariner defense to set up the game-winning drive.
The defense also closed out the scoring on the day when senior Garrett Irizarry (Blairstown, N.J.) forced an intentional grounding by the Cadets in the end zone, which resulted in a sack for Irizarry and a safety for the Mariners.
Norwich held a 17-10 lead at halftime after a touchdown in each of the first two quarters and a 28-yard field goal by sophomore Clyde Tamburro at 1:33 of the second. The Cadets' first TD opened the scoring and came on a 21-yard run by junior Aaron Conner at 8:13 of the first. The Mariners responded on the ensuing drive when junior James Early (Middletown, Md.) finished an 11-play, 70-yard drive with a two-yard TD on the ground and Gartner's PAT tied the score up at 4:27.
The visitors struck again, however, at 9:42 of the second when sophomore quarterback Matt Dunn connected with classmate Manni Romero on a 61-yard TD pass and the PAT made it 14-7. Merchant Marine came back with Gartner's 27-yard FG at 3:33 before Tamburro's field goal that rounded out the scoring in the half.
Gartner had the only points of the third quarter when he nailed a 42-yard field goal to bring the Mariners within four, 17-13. Another big passing play early in the fourth, this time a 73-yarder from Dunn to Romero, put Norwich ahead 24-13 at 14:49, but that would be their last score of the day.
The Mariner defense and special teams forced three turnovers on the day – two fumbles and an interception – and special teams blocked a punt in the third quarter – by freshman Matt Strong (Pacific, Mo.) – which led to Gartner's FG. Sophomore Noah Newburgh (Gilbert, Ariz.) led the defense with eight tackles and three break-ups, while senior Jake Wallace (Pittsburgh, Pa.) had seven stops, including a half-sack for seven yards. Three other Mariners had six tackles each - seniors Brooks Cannell (Ambler, Pa.), Trever Huss (Orange City, Iowa) and Brian Harris (Yonkers, N.Y.).
Senior Charles Deegan (Huntington, N.Y.) had USMMA's interception after he caught the pass deflected by freshman Eric Davidson (Savannah, Ga.). Like Newburgh, Davidson broke up three passes on the day. The first turnover came on the opening drive of the game, when it looked like Norwich was about to score a TD, Cannell forced the ball loose near the goal line and it went into the end zone and out of bounds out of the left side for a touchback. The other fumble came on a punt that sophomore Connor Bourque coughed up in the fourth that led to the drive that started the Mariner comeback.
There were four sacks by the Mariner defense on the day, Davidson had one in the first that dropped the Cadets back nine yards, then two drives later, senior Addison Radcliff (Orlando, Fla.) recorded one for a loss of eight. Deegan and Wallace were credited for half-sacks when they forced the first intentional grounding penalty of the game in the third quarter and Irizarry had the one at the end that resulted in a safety.
For Norwich, Dunn finished the day 23-for-52 for 407 passing yards with two TDs. Romero had 10 catches for 272 yards and caught both touchdown passes. Defensively, junior Tavares Ward was all over the field, finishing with a game-high 13 tackles, including two for losses. Two other Cadets had 11 stops apiece – sophomore Isaiah Williams and junior Martin Bailey.
Up next, the Mariners will travel up to Springfield, Mass., next Saturday, Oct. 13, for a big NEWMAC showdown against Springfield College. Kickoff is slated for 2 p.m. at the Pride's Stagg Field. Live stats and a live video stream of the game will be available with links on the USMMA Football Schedule Page.
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