Football Defeats UMassBy Alvan Eric P. Loreto
For the final act of their exciting 1999 show, the MIT football team enacted a somewhat ugly scene of dangerously high drama that nearly resulted in catastrophe. In the end, the glitzy Broadway ending was preserved, thanks to a brave curtain call by a young freshman.
With winless UMass-Boston down 7-0 and driving late in the fourth quarter, safety Brian D. Hoying ’03 stole the show by intercepting his second pass of the day and returning it 99 yards for a touchdown, sealing a 13-0 victory for the visiting Beavers. Hoying’s dazzling return, which broke a 19-year-old school record, came as a gigantic sigh of relief to MIT (6-4, 4-2 NEFC Blue), whose offense was stifled all afternoon by the never-say-die Beacons.
Embarrassingly, UMB (0-10, 0-6 NEFC Blue), which finished the season last in the NEFC in total offense, outgained MIT by 62 yards (234-172). The MIT offense fell 104 yards short of their season average, due in large part to the overmatched Beacon defense playing with nothing to lose. UMB senior defensive lineman and co-captain Artie Barnes led his team’s inspiring performance by registering 13 tackles and 4 sacks in his farewell game, earning him a spot on the NEFC Weekly Defensive Honor Roll.
However, the noble efforts of Barnes and his overachieving team were bettered, albeit barely, by Hoying’s clutch play and a Beaver defense brimming with confidence. In addition to his game-winner, the St. Henry, Ohio freshman’s first interception of the game (and also the first of his career), which came late in the first quarter, led directly to MIT’s first score, a 20-yard run two plays later by fullback Kip Johann-Berkel ’02.
From there MIT refused to budge, holding the run-oriented Beacon offense to only 2.8 yards per rushing attempt in posting their first shutout of the season.
Defense puts on an amazing show
Along with Hoying’s heroics, the stellar team defensive effort was flavored with other fine individual performances as well. For the second straight week defensive end Philip J. Colomy ’00 dominated the battle in the trenches. Colomy closed out his career in grand style with 14 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and a forced fumble. The performance earned him the prestigious NEFC Defensive Player of the Week selection.
Cornerback Angus Huang ’00 made a strong case for postseason accolades with seven hard-hitting tackles and a huge interception to stop a Beacon drive cold near the end of the first half. Huang finished the season tied for second in the NEFC with five interceptions. However, the defensive success on this day can summarized by one statistic: nine MIT players registered three or more tackles.
The lone offensive standout for either team was Beacon wide receiver Mike Bissanti, who finished with nine catches for 99 yards (11.0-yard avg). Bissanti came alive in the fourth quarter, particularly on UMB’s nerve-wracking but futile final drive. Four times Bissanti caught third- or fourth-down passes from freshman quarterback Mike Rich to keep his team’s hopes alive.
The second of these catches, which came on a seemingly hopeless fourth-and-18 near midfield, was nothing short of spectacular: a 19-yard leaping one-handed grab on the sideline with MIT cornerback Alvie P. Loreto ’01 blanketing him in perfect coverage.
Bissanti’s refusal to give up struck a chord in the Beacons, and two of his catches later they found themselves in opponent territory with time winding down and a chance to tie or win, a position they had not been in for the past two years. After calling a time out to stop the clock, UMB lined up at the MIT 10 in a three-receiver formation, but Rich’s attempt to hit tight end Jason McCursh in the middle of the end zone wound up in the hands of Hoying, who took it back the distance to ice the game.
Beavers tie school record
With Saturday’s victory MIT tied the school record for most wins in a year, a mark first established by the 1980 club squad that finished 6-1. The Beavers finished third in the NEFC Blue Division behind Nichols College (ranked eighth in New England Division III, but a team MIT defeated earlier in the year) and undefeated Bridgewater State (ranked 19th nationally by the AFCA D3 Coaches’ Poll).
A four-game winning streak by MIT to close out the 1999 season serves as the highlight of a turnaround from 1998 where MIT won only one game. The solid effort should make head coach Dwight Smith a prime candidate for NEFC Coach of the Year.
Spirits are flying high within the MIT football department, as the outlook for next year looks even better. Eighteen of twenty-three starters return for the Beaver Red in 2000, including the following players who made their presence felt this season: CB Huang, LB Brian L. Licata ’01, LB James C. Jorgensen ’01, OL Jarad J. Vasquez ’01, QB David R. Skordal ’02, TE Keith V. Battocchi ’02, and WR Jang Kim ’01. With a dedicated off-season training program and a confident, hardworking mindset, the Beavers look forward to soaring to new heights at the turn of the new millennium.