CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – After being held scoreless in the opening quarter, Plymouth State University registered touchdowns in the three remaining frames en route to a 21-7 victory over MIT in a New England Football Conference (NEFC) Boyd Division game on Saturday. The Panthers picked up their fourth consecutive win and improved to 5-1 on the year and 3-0 in league play. Following the loss, the Engineers' record dipped to 1-4 overall and 0-3 in the NEFC.
Both squads were unable to convert on their opening drives as a 50-yard punt by John Wenzel pinned Plymouth State at its one-yard line. An exchange of three-and-outs put the Panthers at their own 17 for their third drive of the frame. MIT's defense forced another punt that was blocked by Rhys Borchert and was recovered by punter Nick Provost at the six. Marcel Sanchez had runs of two and three yards which were both stopped by Harry Fallon. Nate Forbes then scampered the final yard to the endzone. Matthew Peterson's successful extra-point gave the Engineers a 7-0 advantage with six seconds remaining in the quarter.
Plymouth State responded with a touchdown on its next drive. Passes by J.J. Brooks to Ty Long (12 yards), Aaron Getz (23 yards), and Brendan Fontaine (30 yards) put the Panthers at the MIT five after starting at their own 21. A pair of rushes by Michael Malia generated three yards while Brooks had a two-yard keeper for the score. Christian Mulcahy converted the extra point to tie the game at the 9:24 mark of the second quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, Provost's boot sailed out of bounds at the MIT 11 and was spotted at the hosts' 40. Ben Hessels hauled in a 24-yard pass from John Wenzel who then connected with Mike Fitzgerald for an eight-yard catch. Wenzel dashed four yards to the Panthers' 24 but the Engineers' drive ended on Dan Kelly's interception at the 15, which was returned to the PSU 33.
MIT's defense denied the visitors a chance to capitalize on the turnover as they stalled at their own 38. The snap on the punting attempt sailed over Provost's head and caused him to chase the ball down to the 10-yard line. Despite being pursued by the Engineers, Provost managed to get the punt off at the PSU 20 which was caught by Brian Doyle at the MIT 34.
Neither side made much progress during the final five minutes of the half, preserving the 7-7 deadlock at the intermission.
Starting the third quarter with the ball at its own 35, MIT picked up a first down courtesy of Wenzel's one-yard plunge and a nine-yard reception by Fitzgerald. Wenzel then ran three yards and the play appeared to have been stopped, but Peter LaBreck forced a fumble, collected the loose ball, and ran 48 yards for the touchdown. Mulcahy's point after helped give Plymouth State a lead it would not relinquish.
The defensive battle returned as a trio of punts occurred during the next three minutes. Following a touchback on Wenzel's 39-yard boot, the Panthers' offense seemed to have found its rhythm as Long rumbled 28 yards while a penalty moved PSU up to the Engineers' 23. A timeout by MIT stopped Plymouth State's momentum as it only managed two yards on its next two rushes before Doyle picked off Brooks at the MIT seven.
The Engineers were unable to convert but the Panthers found success on their next drive which spanned the third and fourth quarters. Starting at its 30, Chris Corey and Brooks combined for seven yards on two rushes as Long sprinted 28 yards to put PSU at the MIT 35. Malia gobbled up three yards while Joel Mignault caught an eight-yard pass from Brooks as time expired in the third quarter. Steve Campbell generated 11 yards on a pair of runs as Malia's five-yard scamper resulted in first-and-goal at the MIT eight. Campbell needed two rushes to find the endzone while Mulcahy's extra point capped the scoring.
Wenzel ran for a team-high 36 yards while throwing for 97. He finished 6-of-13 with two interceptions and one sack. Sanchez bolstered the Engineers' rushing corps with 22 yards on 10 carries. In addition to his 26-yard reception, Kyle Johnson shared quarterbacking duties, going 3-of-10 for 12 yards with one interception. Fitzgerald led the way with four receptions that totaled 36 yards while Forbes added an 18-yard catch. Kristopher Weaver racked up a game-high 13 tackles to go along with a fumble recovery and pass break-up. Patrick Jupe and Peter Gilliland both contributed 10 tackles, as Jupe recorded one tackle for a loss of two yards.
Long compiled 90 yards on 15 rushing attempts to go along with a 12-yard catch. Brooks added 46 yards on the ground while going 5-of-9 for 89 yards and was intercepted once. Mignault had a team-high two receptions that yielded 24 yards while Fontaine and Getz added catches of 30 and 23 yards, respectively. LaBreck tallied nine tackles, one for a loss of a yard, as Matt MacLean chipped in eight tackles and a sack. Kevin Whalen posted an interception and a break-up while Zach Parson registered an interception of his own. Chris Francher got a piece of an MIT punt that only netted 17 yards.
Both squads continue divisional play on Saturday, October 16. MIT will travel to Western New England College while Plymouth State will host Endicott College in a pivotal match-up as both squads are undefeated in league action.