Football Edges Merchant Marine 24-23 in Overtime Thriller


Kings Point, NY --- All three facets of the game - offense, defense and special teams - contributed late as the WPI football team went on the road and won its second straight Liberty League game by defeating the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy 24-23 in overtime on Saturday afternoon at Brooks Stadium.  The Engineers improve to 3-4 (2-2 Liberty) while the Mariners drop to 2-6 overall (0-5 Liberty).

WPI tied the game at 17-17 with just eight seconds left on the clock in the fourth quarter on a 25-yard field goal by sophomore Blaine Bursey (Middleburg, FL). The Mariners had taken a 17-14 lead with just 4:24 to go in the fourth when junior quarterback Matthew McDaniels (Malverne, NY) connected with sophomore Josh Woodburn (Huntingtown, MD) for a 28-yard touchdown pass. However, the Engineers went on to tie it on the field goal on the ensuing drive, forcing overtime. 

An eight-yard touchdown run by sophomore QB Dan Eckler (Stoughton, MA) and a good PAT by Bursey on WPI's first possession of overtime put the visitors ahead 24-17, putting the pressure on Merchant Marine to answer back. On just the third play of the drive, USMMA found the end zone on a 17-yard rush by McDaniels. After the Mariners called a timeout, the field goal unit came out to try and tie the game with the PAT, but WPI would call its timeout and, after that, Merchant Marine's offense came out to go for two points and the win. However, the play called was a pitch to the right that the running back had trouble handling and went to the ground as a fumble, which WPI jumped on to seal the victory. 

In the first quarter, it was USMMA that got on the board first on a one-yard rush by junior Mario Colangelo (Staten Island, NY) that capped off a 16-play, 74-yard drive that took nearly 10 minutes off the clock, putting the Mariners ahead 7-0. The Engineers tied the score at 7-all early in the second quarter when Eckler hooked up with senior Ian McMullen (Londonderry, NH) for a 67-yard touchdown reception. 

The next score didn't come until about four minutes into the third quarter, when freshman Erik Swayne (Great Falls, VA) nailed a 36-yard field goal to put USMMA ahead, 10-7. WPI responded and took its first lead of the game in the fourth when sophomore Trey Pierce (Charlestom, SC) rushed it in for an eight-yard TD with 8:08 left on the clock. Woodburn's TD reception put the Mariners back ahead, but the late FG tied the game and forced the overtime period.

For the Mariners, McDaniels was 2-for-5 on completions for 68 yard and one touchdown, while also gaining 100 yards on the ground. Woodburn led USMMA with 114 rushing yards, but his only score came via the air, as he had the one touchdown reception in the fourth for 28 yards. Defensively, sophomore Patrick Keyes (Parsippany, NJ) recorded a team-high 10 tackles, while senior Cody Fields (Vancouver, WA) and junior Jacob Hill (Glen Burnie, MD) both had seven stops. 

As a team, Merchant Marine gained 353 yards of offense (285 rushing and 68 passing), but they were out-gained by WPI, who had 399 yards on 241 in the air and 158 on the ground. 

Eckler was 13-for-27 passing with one TD and one interception by junior Dillon Reaves (Omaha, NE) in the second quarter). He also had 18 rushing yards with one score. The day's leading rusher was Pierce, who compiled 146 yards, including his eight-yard TD run. The Engineers' sophomore Brian Murtagh (Weyland, MA) led all players with 15 tackles and classmate Jason Lamb (Plymouth, MA) recorded 11 stops.

WPI returns home next Saturday to face St. Lawrence at noon. The Mariners will now go into their bye week and will return to action on Saturday, November 1, with a road matchup against Liberty League foe Union. Game time is scheduled for noon at the Dutchmen's Frank Bailey Field in Schenectady, NY.

Release Courtesy Merchant Marine Athletics