Defense Carries WPI Football to 28-2 NEWMAC Road Triumph at Norwich

Brandon Winn - WPI Football 2021

Northfield, VT --- Senior quarterback Brendan Olexa (Hatboro, PA) threw for 199 yards and two touchdowns on 15-of-25 passing, and WPI pitched a defensive shutout for a 28-2 win at Norwich to claim its second victory of the season on a rainy Vermont Saturday afternoon.

The Engineers improve to 2-6 overall and 1-3 in the NEWMAC, while the Cadets fall to 2-7 and 1-4.

It's the third time this season Olexa has thrown for two touchdowns in a game this season.

For the second straight week, WPI scored on its opening possession. Olexa completed four of seven passes on the opening drive, including a 28-yard connection with senior wide receiver Joe Coutcher (West Greenwich, RI), and graduate student Zachary Levy (Bellingham, MA) capped the nine-play, 66-yard drive with a six-yard touchdown run.

Coutcher finished with three catches for 28 yards, and Levy amassed a team-high 47 yards on the ground on 11 carries.

While the offense scored in every quarter, it was the Engineers defense which shined the brightest during the rainy day.

While big plays happened most of the day, the Crimson and Gray only allowed 222 yards of total offense against, none were bigger than in back-to-back defensive series in the second quarter.

Norwich was able to grind out a 17-play 80-yard drive which placed the ball at the WPI 1-yard line for 3rd and goal. Consecutive rushes by Cadets' junior Nate Parady (Saint Albans, VT) were stuffed by the Engineers defense leading to a turnover on downs. On the very next Norwich possession, on the very first play from scrimmage, sophomore Ethan Catania came away with his second interception of the season.

Two plays after the Catania interception, Olexa connected with senior running back Brandon Winn (Tewskbury, MA) for a 16-yard touchdown.  Winn added 43 yards rushing and a touchdown on 13 carries for the WPI offense.

Five other players had receptions for the Engineers. Junior Isaac Frederique (Methuen, MA) had three catches for a team-high 51 yards, graduate student Phillip Durgin (Wenham, MA) made two receptions for 27 yards, Levy had 25 yards on one reception, junior Tommy Emrick (Windham, NH) had four catches for 20 yards, and senior Ethan Farrah (Grafton, MA) had a 19-yard touchdown grab for his only reception.

Defensively, sophomore Frankie Polito (Shrewsbury, MA) had 10 tackles, senior Cam Smith had five tackles, including two sacks for a total of 22 yards lost, and senior Joshua Smith (Horsham, PA) had seven tackles, including 2-1/2 for loss and 1-1/2 sacks for the Crimson and Gray.  Ethan Catania (Amesbury, MA) and Ben Robinson (Wayland, MA) both tallied an interception and a pass breakup.  It was the first time WPI had allowed 2 points in game since a 47-2 victory over Endicott in the 2004 season opener.

Parady finished with 42 rushing yards on 16 carries, and senior Rashawn Fraser (Ft. Lauderdale, FL) threw for 88 yards and two interceptions on 9-of-20 passing while rushing for 63 yards on 15 carries for Norwich.

Defensively for the Cadets, senior Zev Motew (Highland Park, IL) had 12 tackles and a half sack, and junior Matthew Christe (Brookfield, CT) and sophomore Ethan Amburn (Suffield, CT) had six tackles apiece.

WPI will host Coast Guard on senior day at noon on Saturday. Norwich travels to Washington D.C. to face Catholic in its regular season finale with a scheduled noon kickoff.