Special Teams, Soggy Field Drown MITBy Christopher P. Anderson
The Beavers fought hard for 60 rain-soaked minutes, but couldn’t recover from a couple of big plays by the Nichols College Bison. MIT lost, 22-7. The torrential storm that drenched New England Saturday forced the cancellation of many athletic contests, but the New England Football Conference Boyd Division game between two 3-4 teams hunting for a winning record went on as scheduled.
Two weeks ago, MIT defeated Western New England College with a field goal and a punt return for a touchdown. On Saturday, however, special teams proved to be the Achilles’ heel -- all four Nichols scores were the result of special-teams gaffes, including three botched punts.
Nichols returned the opening kickoff to the MIT 36-yard line. After holding them to three plays and out, MIT failed to gain a first down. The Bison returned a punt by M. Matt Ramirez ’06 for a touchdown, but the play was negated by a five-yard penalty for running into the punter. MIT elected to re-kick, but the second punt was blocked by Tim Callahan, who scooped it up and took into the end zone.
MIT answered late in the first quarter with one of their most impressive drives of the season, covering 54 yards in just over seven minutes. Tailback Philip M. Deutsch ’04 rushed six times for 21 yards and also caught three passes from Alex T. Karnal ’03. The Beavers converted on fourth down twice, the second time being a 19-yard scoring pass from Karnal to Warren Chia ’05. Ramirez’s extra point evened the score at 7-7.
The punting game, however, continued to haunt the Beavers. After penalties pushed them into the shadow of their own end zone, a bad snap went over Ramirez’s head. He was tackled in the end zone for a safety.
Nichols returned the free kick into MIT territory and and took advantage of the field position with a play-action touchdown pass, bringing the score to 16-7 at halftime.
Messy field hurts MIT efforts
The Bison Bowl had become an absolute mud pit before the game had begun. By the end of pregame warm-ups, all of the white MIT jerseys had turned brown. Both teams struggled with footing, but no one more than Karnal, who had a heck of a time getting into his drops on passes. He ended up completing 14 of 32 passes for 77 yards, with a touchdown and no interceptions. Coming off a 113-yard effort last week, Deutsch managed only 46 rushing yards to go with his six catches. Tight end Keith V. Battocchi '03 and wide receiver Thomas J. Kilpatrick ’05 caught three passes apiece.
The second half started inauspiciously when a Beaver punt-fake at midfield failed. Again with a short field, Nichols ripped off four straight runs of over ten yards and threw another touchdown pass, extending their lead to 227.
MIT tried to turn the momentum on the next Bison drive when defensive end Brennan P. Sherry ’06 sacked the Nichols quarterback, forced him to fumble and fell on the ball. The offense had reached the Nichols 40-yard line when Deutsch busted out a 14-yard run on fourth and four, but a holding penalty nullified the first down and MIT failed to convert the second time around.
The defense played a solid game -- Nichols gained only 122 yards all day -- but were doomed by the field position advantage as the Bison, spent most of their time on MIT’s side of the 50-yard line. The running game was corralled by Brent M. Schreiber ’03, who led the team with seven tackles, as well S. Dan Lovell ’03 and juniors Dan Relihan, Mark A. Jury and Tanis L. Fieldholtz.
MIT’s final game of the season is at home this Saturday against Salve Regina. The 12 p.m. contest is also the final game in an MIT uniform for seniors Karnal, Battocchi, Schreiber, Lovell, Jerimy R. Arnold, Corey D. Carter, Brian D. Hoying, and Lars A. Gronning.