Last Minute Drive Falls Short As Beavers Drop HomecomingBy Alvan E. Loreto
Make no mistake, the 1999 chapter of MIT football has made for much more exciting reading than last year’s version. The fairy-tale ending, however, will have to wait until another Saturday.
Like Cinderella, the Beavers ran out of time at their Homecoming ball, allowing the Curry College Colonels to sneak out of Steinbrenner Field with a come-from-behind 17-14 victory. A last-second drive for MIT with no timeouts stalled at the Beaver 48-yard line, deflating the rowdy home crowd of 1,496 and sending the Curry sideline into frenzied celebration. The loss, MIT’s third straight, dropped the struggling Beavers to 1-3 overall (0-2 NEFC Blue).
Curry (2-2, 1-1 NEFC Blue) was carried by the solid play of Steve Santos, whose 2-yard touchdown run and 2-point conversion pass with 6:40 left in the fourth quarter proved to be the game-winner. The gutsy quarterback’s dive into the corner of the end zone highlighted a 15-play 91-yard drive punctuated by the strong north-south running of Colonel back Brian McInerny. The Beavers failed to stop McInerny, who finished with 93 yards on 20 carries, a 4.6-yard average.
The MIT defensive unit wilted in the second half, wasting a good effort by the MIT offense, which showed signs of improvement from its lackluster performance against Salve Regina University. Enrique J. Villavicencio ’00 kept the Beavers close, rushing for 98 yards on 17 carries (5.8-yard avg), including a slashing 6-yard touchdown run at the end of the first quarter that staked MIT a 7-0 lead. Quarterback David R. Skordal ’02 had another subpar day (8 for 20, 102 yards, 2 INT) but may have found a favorite target for the season in tight end Keith V. Battocchi ’02. The reliable sophomore ended the day with 67 receiving yards on 4 catches, a 16.8-yard average.
Adding even more frustration to the Beaver defensive meltdown was the way in which the unit had thoroughly dominated the first half of play, only to settle for a 7-6 halftime lead. MIT stuffed the Colonels’ offense on its first four drives, forcing 3 punts and a fumble. The Beaver offense could not capitalize, and a crucial interception of a Skordal pass by Curry cornerback Chris LeBlanc with 2:29 left in the second quarter gave the Colonels one more chance to shift momentum before the half. Curry did just that, as a desperate Hail Mary throw by Santos into the end zone with no time left on the clock landed in the arms of tight end Greg Jacobs. The extra point failed, but the score had given the Colonel offense confidence to come out firing on all cylinders at the start of the third quarter.
A 2-yard touchdown run by Kip M. Johann-Berkel ’02 early in the third quarter stretched the Beaver lead to 14-6. Curry answered quickly on a 49-yard drive capped by a 34-yard Bill Lovendale field goal. On the next MIT drive the Colonel defense stepped up a level, forcing a quick punt to set the stage for Santos touchdown.
After the Curry quarterback’s heroics, MIT fumbled the ensuing kickoff, giving the Colonels the ball deep in their own territory. The Beavers showed resilience, forcing a turnover on downs, but the subsequent failure to generate offense forced them to punt with no timeouts and 2:24 remaining in the game. At this point the game appeared to be in the bag for Curry, but again the Beavers held on.
Kevin R. Richardson ’01 demonstrated the grit and perseverance characteristic of Beaver football by stripping McInerny of the ball, leading to an MIT recovery and the opportunity at one last thrilling but unsuccessful gasp.
Beavers Look to Regroup
The MIT squad looks to end its losing skid on the road tomorrow against UMass-Dartmouth (2-2, 1-0 NEFC Blue). The Corsairs are rebuilding after finishing four of the past five seasons with an 8-2 overall record. The wave of success on the football field for UMD reached a pinnacle last year, as they were given a sixth place ranking in the final 1998 ECAC Division III polls.
The Corsair defense remains solid, led by senior cornerback and co-captain Mike Cotton. Cotton, a preseason Division III All-American after an 11-interception 1998 campaign, also handles punt return duties for UMD. Senior linebacker Brandon Duarte, also a co-captain, is a force in the middle, as is senior Charlie Hogan, the team leader in tackles. Junior defensive lineman Matt Souza, a 1998 NEFC First-Team selection, should give the young Beaver offensive line some problems.
On the offensive side of the ball is where the Corsairs have been weakened. Gone is the record-setting combo of quarterback Jay Furtado and receiver Ryan Bland, who made it a nightmarish 1998 meeting for MIT (a 33-0 loss). Junior quarterback Matt McLaughlin has stepped into Furtado’s place, but his lack of experience has shown, particularly in last weekend’s 20-3 loss to Maine Maritime. The receiving corps is excellent, with lethal weapons in wideout Jason Antonio and tight end Mike Armandi. Newcomer Frank Meranda has been a pleasant surprise at tailback (6.0-yard avg).
The 1999 version of UMD appears vulnerable to a young Beaver team. For MIT to end its losing ways, its defense must exercise discipline and confidence in order to stop the few stars on an otherwise average Corsair offensive unit.
The Beaver offense must be able to win first-down situations in order to give the coaches more play-calling flexibility, which in turn will keep the talented UMD defensive players guessing. Finally, the Beavers must play with anger and a sense of urgency so that they keep alive their chances of a winning season.
Beaver Injury Report: Alexander W. DeNeui ’03, knee, out 2-3 weeks.