Second Half Surge Carries MIT Past Coast Guard, 48-31

Junior Justin Wallace

NEW LONDON, Conn. – MIT closed out its 2013 football season in fine form this afternoon as the Engineers churned out a school record 577 yards of offense that helped them overcome three first half turnovers in a 48-31 victory over the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Junior Justin Wallace (Palatine, Ill.) rushed for over 200 yards for the first time in his career, finishing with 215 and a pair of scores for MIT. The triumph gave the Engineers six wins in a season for the first time since 1999. 

MIT (6-3, 4-3 NEFC) took the opening kickoff and started moving down the field, gaining the Coast Guard side of the 50-yard line on a 19-yard completion from junior Peter Williams (Portland, Ore.) to junior Brad Goldsberry (Elizabeth, Colo.). But three plays later Williams was intercepted by Evan Rothfield, and the Bears turned around and marched all the way to the MIT 25 before the Engineers could halt the dive. Tyler Henning came on and put Coast Guard in the lead with a 42-yard field goal.

Coast Guard (3-7, 3-4 NEFC) then jumped on a Williams fumble on MIT's second play on the next drive, with the Bears recovering at the MIT 6. On the next play Derek Victory took it in for the score and six and a half minutes in the Bears had a 10-0 lead. 

Williams hit sophomore Seve Esparrago (St. Louis, Mo.) with a 31-yard strike on the first play of the next MIT possession, and that sparked a response by the Engineers. Williams completed five of seven attempts on the drive for 71 yards, including a seven-yard scoring toss to freshman Matt Lindsay (Batavia, Ill.) with 2:35 left in the quarter.

Three plays later Coast Guard was back on top by 10 after a 43-yard scoring pass from Victory to Alex Oswald. The Bears then picked up another turnover when Victor Rizzardi picked off Williams and returned it 40 yards to the MIT eight as the first quarter ended. Mike Clancy then made it 24-7 on the next play with his run into the end zone. 

Wallace started the next MIT drive with a 22-yard carry and the Engineers went on to complete an 11-play, 75-yard drive to begin its comeback. With 10:18 left Williams took it in from three yards out to cut the Coast Guard lead to 10 points. The Bears missed on a 54-yard field goal attempt on their next possession, giving MIT the ball on its own 37. The Engineers put together another scoring drive and when Williams hit sophomore Nathan Varady (Fayetteville, Ark.) in the back of the end zone with 12 second left in the half, the lead was down to three.

MIT forced a three and out on the first Coast Guard possession of the second half and then marched down the field again as Williams accounted for all but 14 yards of a 65-yard drive that finished with a Williams to Esparrago 15-yard scoring toss to give the Engineers their first lead of the game at 28-24. MIT then picked up a turnover of its own as senior Jake Laux (Dousman, Wis.) fell on a lose ball at the Coast Guard 30. The Engineers turned that miscue into points as freshman Tucker Cheyne (Avon, Conn.) hit a 35-yard field goal to make it 31-24. 

Coast Guard came back and tied things up on its next possession as Jake Wawrzyniak took it over from the one with 2:46 left in the third, but MIT came right back and retook the lead with an 82-yard drive. Williams was sacked for a six-yard loss on a third and one at the Coast Guard 21, but came back on fourth down with a 21-yard completion to sophomore Chris McPherson (Gaithersburg, Md.) and Wallace finished it on the next play from six yards out to make it 38-31 with 13 minutes to go.

Coast Guard could not come up with a response for the rest of the game, however, as the MIT defense held the Bears to a total of nine yards on their final three possessions. The Engineers offense continued to eat up yards and clock and they added a 26-yard Cheyne field goal and a four-yard run by Wallace with 2:15 left to ice the win. 

Other than the three turnovers, Coast Guard could not contain the MIT offense. The Engineers held the ball for 44:45 and converted 17 of 21 third down attempts. Williams had his best passing day of the season, completing 21 of 31 for 293 yards and three scores. Esparrago grabbed six of those passes for 108 yards and a score while Goldsberry also had six catches, totaling 72 yards.

Victory completed 20 of 35 attempts for 209 yards for Coast Guard, with Oswald catching six for 110 yards and Collis Brown eight more for 82 yards. The MIT defense, led by senior Brent Johnson's (La Cañada, Calif.) eight tackles, held the Bears to just 40 yards rushing.