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Football Pulls Out an Amazing Comeback Win Against UMass

By Alvan Eric P. Loreto

The cold-weather practice sessions of last week produced an MIT football team frozen stiff for the first two-and-a-half quarters of last Saturday’s game. Not only did the Beavers thaw out quickly, they caught on fire.

With the frustration of a three-game losing streak as their fuel, MIT burned heavily favored University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, turning a 23-0 third quarter deficit into a heartstopping 30-29 overtime victory. The miraculous comeback, the biggest in the 21-year history of the MIT football program, ended when UMD kicker Brian West missed the extra-point attempt following the Corsair overtime touchdown.

UMass-Dartmouth (2-3, 1-2 NEFC Blue) played passively in the second half, allowing the never-say-die mentality of MIT (2-3, 1-2 NEFC Blue) to torch them in the end. The Tech option attack, thoroughly dominated by UMD in the first half, bounced back impressively and wore the Corsair defense down in the later stages of the game.

Passing game comes together

Senior tailback Enrique J. Villavicencio ’00 shone the brightest, rushing for 107 yards on 18 carries (5.9-yard avg). The Guyanabo, Puerto Rico native’s deceptive speed and sharp cuts left first and second UMD tacklers grasping air all day.

Villavicencio’s stylish effort opened up lanes for quarterback David Skordal ’02 to run through. Skordal finished the day with 46 rushing yards and 1 rushing TD despite enduring some hard hits from the Corsair defense.

More impressive, however, was the Skordal-led explosion of passing offense that put his team back in the game. The second half saw MIT’s offensive line picking up UMD blitzing schemes beautifully, giving the sophomore time to find open men downfield. Consecutive third-quarter touchdown bombs to Charles A. Toye ’00 (44 yards) and Jang S. Kim ’01 (36 yards) stunned the Corsair fans and brought MIT to within 8 points.

Inspired by Skordal’s performance (173 passing yards, 3 TD, 0 INT), the MIT defense, led by NEFC Defensive Player of the Week James C. Jorgensen ’01 (10 tackles and 2 sacks despite a broken nose suffered in the third quarter), held UMD scoreless in the fourth, setting the stage for the wild finish.

Last-minute score takes game to OT

With two seconds left in regulation and the Beavers down 23-15, Skordal hit an outstretched Keith V. Battocchi ’02 for a 1-yard touchdown. The successful conversion attempt on a Villavicencio run sent the game into overtime, and the MIT offense was given first opportunity.

Skordal’s 10-yard scramble into the end zone gave MIT its first lead of the game, but it was the extra-point kick by kicker Kevin Ferguson ’02 that proved to be the game-winner. UMD struck quickly on their overtime chance with a 12-yard TD run by tailback Frank Meranda.

West, who earlier had had an extra-point attempt blocked by Angus Huang ’00 and returned 88 yards for a safety by Yoshitaka Nakanishi ’02, received a good snap and hold but failed to convert, sending the emotionally drained Beaver bench spilling onto the Corsair home field in celebration.

The second-half self-destruction of the UMass-Dartmouth defense spoiled some excellent Corsair individual efforts. Meranda, a slippery sophomore from Richmond, CA, tiptoed, whirled, and danced his way to 142 yards on 29 carries (4.9-yard avg), including 2 nifty touchdown runs. Quarterback Matt McLaughlin had a good afternoon, throwing for 192 yards and no interceptions. His favorite target was sophomore wideout Mike Armandi, whose tight-end-sized frame caused problems for the smaller MIT defensive backs.

Armandi caught 5 passes for 117 yards (23.4-yard avg), including a 69-yard TD on a blown coverage in the first quarter. Defensively, linebacker Brandon Duarte was impressive, registering 13 tackles (9 unassisted) and a pass breakup.

Bridgewater juggernaut next

Tomorrow MIT plays host to the Bridgewater State College Bears, one of the hottest teams in the nation. The Bears (5-0, 3-0 NEFC Blue) bring a 10-game winning streak and NCAA Division III Top 25 ranking consideration to Steinbrenner Field for a 1:30 p.m. contest. The 1999 squad is arguably the best one in Coach Pete Mazzafaro’s 31-year career at BSC, where he has compiled a record of 161-118-7.

Offensively, Bridgewater is stockpiled with size, speed, and talent. The focal point is 24-year old junior running back Seto Berry, who has been a nightmare for opposing defenses this season. Berry is averaging 128.6 rushing yards per game to go along with nine touchdown runs. The Bear passing game has proven just as lethal, with all-star caliber receivers in Andy Macaione (25 receptions, 422 yards, 6 TD) and Chris Carr. The line is big and strong, providing ample time for gritty quarterback Dan Maurer to put it on target. All this adds up to a BSC offensive unit averaging 42.6 points in its first five games.

The Bears are a notch below on defense, but still solid. Defensive linemen Bill Deaett and Christos Arsoniadis are co-captains as well as run-stopping forces up front. Outside linbacker Dave Dungan is a playmaker, and safety Rich Cawley makes his presence felt. Macaione does double time by playing cornerback (7 INT in ’98), and Carr does triple time by playing not only cornerback but also punter/placekicker.

Superb athletes all over the field mark this year’s BSC squad, so MIT must play flawless football or they will be in for a long day. Slowing down Berry will not stop the Bears but will be the major factor in Tech keeping the game close. If this can be done, then the Beaver offense has the potential to make anything happen, as evidenced by last week’s shocker.

Beaver Injury Report: OLB Jorgensen, nose, probable. QB Skordal, elbow, uncertain. WR Toye, knee, out 2-3 weeks.