Defense Posts Shutout, Offense Comes Alive in Second Half as Football Blanks Montclair State

Evan Wertz - WPI Football 2022

WORCESTER -- An Evan Wertz (Franklin, MA) forced fumble parlayed into a 23-yard touchdown from Stephen MacDonald (Georgetown, MA) to Jay Mezzo (Naugatuck, CT) sparked the WPI football team to a 10-0 win at home against Montclair State on Saturday afternoon. The shutout evens the Engineers' season mark to 2-2, while Montclair State also stands at 2-2. 

Wertz was all over the field, leading the WPI defense with six tackles, all solo, a sack, a forced fumble, and a quarterback hurry. The Engineers' defensive unit held the Red Hawks to just 124 yards of total offense, including forcing four fumbles. Zachary Carney (North Easton, MA) notched a team-high seven tackles, while Harrison Kyriacou (Plainview, NY) had six tackles, two for loss, with a forced fumble. Nate Russell (South Windsor, CT) was solid in coverage, notching a pair of pass breakups. 

Offensively, MacDonald made the most of his first start of the season, going 11-for-24 with 131 yards and a touchdown. Mezzo was the top receiver, with four catches for 57 yards and a score. Hunter Carey (South Hadley, MA) notched his second 100-yard game of the season, rushing for 130 on a season-high 28 carries. 

For Montclair State, QB Mason Murdock (West Orange, NJ) was 10-for-23 for 68 yards. Abellany Mendez (Rutherford, NJ) had nine carries for 24 yards, while Eric Cowan (Lakehurst, NJ) had four carries for 33 yards. 

Defensively for the Red Hawks, Nicholas Burgess (Hackensack, NJ) led all players with 13 tackles, nine solo. Omarie Wilmore (Belleville, NJ) had seven tackles, including a sack, while adding a QB hurry and a pass breakup. Brennan Ray (Woodbine, NJ) rounded out the defensive stat leaders with four tackles and an interception. 

A slow first quarter saw the teams combine for just 38 yards of total offense. WPI forced Montclair State to punt on two of its three first-quarter drives, while a fumble, forced by Kyriacou ended the third. WPI's offense was no better, punting three times while turning the ball over on downs to end their longest drive of the quarter. 

Another scoreless quarter followed. WPI punted on its three drives, the third of which was its longest of the game to that point. Starting deep in their own territory, the Engineers put together a nine-play effort, but an incomplete pass on third and 17 forced another punt. 

The Red Hawks followed with their longest drive of the half, but a sack from Wertz on 1st and 10 from the WPI 38 ended the drive, and the half, still scoreless. 

WPI finally broke through midway through the third quarter. After the teams traded punts to open the second half, Wertz forced a Montclair State fumble at the 25, which was recovered by Frankie Polito (Shrewsbury, MA). The Engineers needed just four plays to capitalize, ending as MacDonald threw a 23-yard touchdown to Mezzo to put WPI up 7-0. 

After forcing another MSU punt, the Engineers capped a five-play, 42-yard drive with a Brock Dubey (Dudley, MA) field goal for a 10-0 bulge after three quarters. 

Montclair State turned the ball over on downs in its first action of the fourth quarter. WPI was forced to punt on the next possession, but still, the Red Hawks couldn't get anything going on offense. The visitors' final drive of the game ended in a punt, after gaining just 18-yards, handing the ball over to WPI. The Engineers then ran out the clock with a 13-play, 78-yard drive that clocked the final 7:56 to seal the win.

The punters excelled throughout the game.  WPI's Loren Diloreto (Valley Center, CA) averaged 39.8 yards on nine boots and MSU's Michael Fitzpatrick (Marlton, NJ) averaged 40.2 yards on nine punts with depositing three balls inside the 20. 

The hosts outgained the Red Hawks 259 to 124 yards and held a commanding edge in time of possession (37:53 to 22:07). 

Up next for WPI, the Engineers begin conference play with a Saturday match-up at Merchant Marine Academy at 2:30pm. Montclair State also plays on Saturday, heading to Salisbury for a 1pm kick-off.

Photo courtesy of WPI Athletics Student Assistant Andrew McCammon