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Football Falls to Mass. Maritime Acad.

By Alvan Eric Loreto

Carried by the momentum of a big season-opening victory into their 1999 home opener at Steinbrenner Field, the MIT football team was warmly greeted by cheerleaders, a band, and a feisty home crowd -- then rudely treated by an upstart Massachusetts Maritime squad.

The surprising Buccaneers, fielding their most talented team in recent years, put together a solid effort on both sides of the ball to hand the young Beavers a 20-2 loss. Sophomore tailback David Burrill earned spotlight honors, rushing for 178 yards and 2 touchdowns on 36 carries (4.9-yard avg). Burrill’s second 100-yard effort in as many weeks boosted MMA’s struggling offense, but it was an excellent effort by the tough MMA defense that brought victory for the Buccaneers (2-0, 1-0 NEFC).

MIT (1-1, 1-1 NEFC) put together a valiant team effort, but the offensive juggernaut from Week 1 all but disintegrated in the face of a stronger, faster MMA defensive unit. The Beaver running backs continued their trend of posting solid efforts. Maik C. Flanagin G rushed seven times for 64 yards (9.1-yard avg), while Enrique J. Villavicencio ’00 carried 13 times for 62 yards (4.8-yard avg). However, the bulk of MIT’s rushing yardage occurred early in the game. The failure of MIT to get its passing attack going doomed the offense to seeing eight man MMA fronts dedicated to stopping the run throughout most of the second half. The Buccaneers thwarted the Beaver ground game consistently during the latter part of the game up until the second of Burrill’s TD plunges in the fourth quarter put the game out of reach.

MIT’s best chance to score came late in the second quarter. Behind the strong running of Kip M. Johann-Berkel ’02 and efficient scrambling of quarterback David R. Skordal ’02, the Beavers moved the ball down to the Buccaneer 2-yard line. However, a first-down misjudgment by Skordal resulted in an MMA interception and a touchback. It was a game of growing pains for the young Skordal, who felt the pressure from the Buccaneer defensive front all day and finished 3 of 15 for only 26 yards.

Special teams continue to shine

Yet despite the 18-point loss, MIT’s effort was full of positives, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. For the second week in a row the Beaver pass defense sparkled, holding MMA quarterback Joe O’Malley to only four pass completions on 16 attempts for a total of 58 yards. Standout Buccaneer wideout Dan Reading was blanketed all day by fleet cornerback Angus Huang ’00 and finished with zero catches. MIT linebacker Brian L. Licata ’01 ended the afternoon with 19 tackles (12 solo), a blue-collar effort that earned him a place on the NEFC Weekly Defensive Honor Roll.

And perhaps the brightest spot for the Beavers was the play of its special teams. After Burrill’s touchdown early in the first quarter, the Beaver front line blocked the extra point, setting off a wild chase for the rolling ball. The ball squirted out of the arms of several MIT players before being picked up by Kyle Marti ’03. Behind fantastic blocks from Yoshitaka Nakanishi ’02 and Daniel J. Bush ’01, Marti rumbled 79 yards for a safety, MIT’s only points of the game. Marti also blocked a punt later in the quarter, one of two Beaver blocked punts and numerous pressures that harassed the MMA punting game into a paltry 29.4-yard average.

However, although the Beaver defense accomplished its game plan of shutting down O’Malley and Reading, it greatly underestimated the Burrill’s talent. His slippery moves and breakaway speed hurt the Beavers, particularly in medium-range third down situations. Burrill consistently made first tacklers miss, earning two to three extra yards per run before being brought down. In addition, his ability to turn on the jets and beat the pursuing defense to the outside made sweeps and outside runs a favorite call for the MMA offense, a thorn in the side of the MIT defense, and the deciding factor in Saturday’s contest.

Salve Regina next on Saturday

Toppa Field in Newport, Rhode Island is the site of tomorrow’s contest between the visiting Beavers and traditional NEFC powerhouse Salve Regina University. MIT looks for its first win in school history against the Seahawks, who are the defending NEFC and ECAC Northeast Division III Champions. This may be the year for the Beavers, as this year’s Seahawk squad is a far cry from last year’s amazing unit that finished 10-0. Currently SRU is 0-2, having suffered tough losses at the hands of Plymouth State (whom they beat last year in the championship game) and nationally-ranked Bridgewater State.

This week’s game is sure to be a gut check for the Beavers, as SRU is a big, physical team on both sides of the ball. On offense, the Seahawks play smash-mouth football executed to perfection. For years they have run the archaic Wing-T offense, a tricky scheme that places 10 men in the near vicinity of the ball and dares the defense to stop the run. The Salve offense is led by tough senior running back and GTE/coSIDA Academic All-American Mark DeBiasio. DeBiasio finished 1998 ranked 2nd in the NEFC in rushing yards (1294) and had eight 100-yard games. The Seahawks also have a weapon in speedy wide receiver/kick returner Spencer Ingram (2 TD in 1999).

Defensively, Salve has been depleted by the loss of hard-hitting standouts Tom Lewis and Andrew Rossetti to graduation. However, a traditionally strong program such as SRU is never hard-pressed in finding underclass talent. Junior linebacker Ross Ruggiero anchors a steady Seahawk defense that should challenge the MIT option attack. If there is any weakness, it lies in the Salve secondary, which was burned for 205 passing yards, most of which were on deep passes, in a loss to Bridgewater State last week.

The key to the Beavers breaking their long spell against the Seahawks is slowing Salve’s vaunted Wing-T attack by gang tackling DeBiasio and reducing the yards he gains after the initial hit. The Beaver defensive backs, who have shown proficiency in stopping the pass this year, must be willing to come up to contain the run despite giving up 50 or more pounds to the strong Salve blockers. On offense, Skordal must be able to stand in the pocket this week and use his strong arm to find the MIT receivers. The Beaver offensive line has been excellent in run blocking; this week they have to be able to give their quarterback the time to showcase his talent.

Beaver Injury Report: LB John R. Boyer ’01, knee, doubtful. DT Gene F. Mehr ’01, hand, probable.