Football Engineers Another Comeback
MIT Defeats New England Top Ten Squad
All season there have been whispers around the New England Football Conference that young MIT is one of the more improved football teams in the conference. On Saturday, the Beaver was let out of the bag.
In front of a sparse home crowd at Steinbrenner Field, the MIT football squad made its loudest statement of the year with yet another come-from-behind victory, this one an 18-14 tally over Nichols College. Fullback Kip Johann-Berkel ’02 rumbled into the end zone on a 3-yard smash with 25 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to complete the latest nail-biting Beaver comeback. With the loss Nichols dropped to 3-2 in NEFC Blue play (4-2 overall).
The Bison entered the game with a tenth place ranking in the NCAA Division III New England polls, but neither coaches nor players in the MIT camp viewed themselves as the underdogs. As predicted, defense was the story of the game. However, the much-heralded Bison unit was finally outshined by the defense of its opponent.
MIT (3-4, 2-3 NEFC Blue) handcuffed the Nichols offense, holding them to only 93 yards on the ground and 76 in the air. The only two Nichols scores came from a first-half Beaver turnover deep in their own territory and a recovered onside kick to start the second half. In addition, the Beavers held Nichols to 2-for-11 on third-down conversion attempts.
All New-England defensive end Nikolas O. Kozy ’00 was once again a one-man wrecking crew, registering 10 tackles, including three tackles for a loss. Kozy (who was selected to the NEFC Defensive Honor Roll this week), tackle Thomas J. Hynes ’02 (six tackles), and the entire MIT defensive line performed beautifully, stuffing All-NEFC running back Matt Fox. A frustrated Fox finished with only 84 yards on 22 carries (3.7 yard avg).
Bison defense couldn’t hold MIT
The Bison defense, which came into the contest allowing only 6.8 points per game this year, was eventually worn down by the bruising north-south running of Johann-Berkel (21 carries, 86 yards, 4.1-yard avg). As part of the deceptive Beaver option attack, the hard-nosed sophomore plunged forward into piles time and again to collect blue-collar yardage for first downs.
Led by Johann-Berkel and Enrique Villavicencio ’00 (19 carries, 82 yards, 4.3-yard avg), MIT hammered out 13 out of its 16 first downs on the ground. Linebackers Brian St. Peter (14 tackles) and Chris Burun (12 tackles) and safety Courtenay Jackson (13 tackles) were statistical leaders for the tired and shellshocked Nichols defense, which surrendered 217 rushing yards for the afternoon.
Following an MIT fumble in the second quarter, Nichols struck first on a 1-yard run by sophomore quarterback Nate Stawiecki. The Beavers answered quickly and emphatically with a 15-play, 71-yard TD drive, but a missed extra point left the score at 7-6 going into halftime.
The second Bison score, a four-yard run by Fox, opened the second half of play. Then the Beaver defense buckled down while the offense awoke from its lull. For the next four Nichols offensive drives of the game, MIT forced a turnover on downs, two punts, and a fumble. Meanwhile, Villavicencio brought his team to within two on a 1-yard TD run with 8:18 left in the fourth. The two-point conversion attempt failed, leaving the Beavers needing another score to draw even.
A big interception by cornerback Angus Huang ’00 on the ensuing Bison drive set the stage for Johann-Berkel’s heroics, and another pick by cornerback Kevin Richardson ’01 on the final drive of the game punctuated MIT’s dominating defensive performance.
With the victory, MIT raised its all-time record against Nichols to 6-2 and avenged last year’s 35-27 road loss to the Bison.
Worcester State next for MIT
Tomorrow the Beavers make a 42-mile trek along Interstate 90 to visit the Worcester State Lancers. The Lancers are a traditionally strong program that has fallen on hard times recently. Last year’s mediocre 4-6 record has been followed by a disappointing 1-6 start (1-4 NEFC Red) this year. That one win, however, came last Saturday on a thrilling 27-26 double overtime victory over Framingham State.
On offense, WSC runs mostly basic two-back, three-receiver sets. However, they lack the athletic talent that the MIT defense has seen for much of the season. Running backs Todd Daskowski and Eric Swedberg split the rushing load evenly, and an average offensive line protects freshman quarterback Mike Weiss. Weiss, who has steadily improved over the course of the season, has a strong arm but limited accuracy.
The lone Lancer offensive standout is junior wide receiver Jeremy Frisch (3rd in NEFC in receiving yards), whose 7-reception, 139-yard performance last week carried WSC to their improbable victory.
The Worcester State defense presents its opponents with a basic 4-4 defense. Defense has been a major problem for the 1999 Lancer squad, as no true leaders have emerged to break them from their current slump. Evidence of their struggles lies in the fact that free safety Mike Paladrino leads the team in tackles with 70. Paladrino is tough and athletic, as is senior linebacker Jarrod Steele, last week’s NEFC Defensive Player of the Week (13 tackles, seven solo, one fumble recovery). The rest of the WSC defense, though, has been inconsistent for much of the year.
Unfamiliar turf might be a factor
For most of the Beaver football team (especially roster players from warm-weather parts of the nation), Saturday’s contest at Worcester State will mark the first time ever they have played on artificial turf. This surface is faster and harder than grass and will present MIT with new challenges in stopping the Lancer attack. In addition, WSC will surely come after the Beavers a bit more sharply than usual the week after tasting their first victory of 1999. Execution of fundamentals and aggressive play on both sides of the ball will be the key in the young MIT team taking yet another step up the NEFC ladder.
Beaver Injury Report: WR Charles Toye ’00, torn ligaments in knee, out 2-3 weeks; RB Enrique Villavicencio ’00, strained hamstring, doubtful; OL Alex DeNeui ’03, sprained knee, uncertain; DB/KR Alvie Loreto ’01, strained calf, probable; DB Geno White ’01, broken ankle, out for season; OLB John Boyer ’01, dislocated shoulder, out 2-3 weeks.