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Engineers Come From Behind To Defeat Golden Bears 31-27

By Albert Ni

Perhaps more than any other sport, football is a game that rewards sheer determination and willpower. In MIT’s stunning 31-27 victory over the Western New England Golden Bears, it took nothing less than every ounce of determination and willpower the Engineers had to engineer one of the greatest comebacks in school history.

MIT put up 28 unanswered points in the second half by capitalizing on every opportunity, diving on every loose ball, and simply refusing to wilt through relentless rain and wind. Quarterback Richard A. Mancuso ’09 led a furious air assault, connecting on 24 of 56 passes for 277 yards and 2 touchdowns. Kevin T. Vogelsang ’09 paced the receivers with 150 yards on 9 catches, while Thomas J. Kilpatrick ’06 contributed another 78 yards on 6 catches. Defensive Back David A. Blau ’06 added a huge 30-yard fumble recovery, following a monster hit by Defensive Back David O. Kalk ’08, for a touchdown, and Christopher W. Ruggiero ’07 capped off the scoring with a game winning 1-yard run.

The Engineer defense, led by Phillip T. Zakielarz ’06, Brennan F. Sherry ’06, and Kalk, came up big in the second half, recovering 5 of the 8 Golden Bear fumbles in the game, several of which led to scores or halted crucial Western New England drives. “Our kids simply had more will than the other team,” said Offensive Line Coach Rick Adams.

Coming off consecutive blowout losses, a third one seemed almost inevitable for Tech going into halftime down 27-3. The deficit might have felt even larger than that, as the Golden Bears seemed to be able to move the ball at will in the first half, stringing together three long scoring drives while coming up with crucial interceptions that killed promising Engineer drives and produced a touchdown. Aside from a field goal following a fumble forced by Ryan L. Brunswick ’09, Tech looked overmatched for the first 30 minutes of the game.

Due to a combination of the score and inclement weather (the game time temperature was around 70 degrees, with pouring rain and wind), by the beginning of the second half a majority of the crowd present at the beginning of the game had dispersed. However, the Tech players’ spirits were not dented, and within four minutes of the start of the third quarter, Mancuso found Vogelsang for a 22-yard touchdown pass. Vogelsang immediately followed that up with a sensational one-handed grab on the ensuing two-point conversion.

Next, Kicker R. Matt Ramirez ’06 made one of a multiple of huge kicks, perfectly placing an onside kick that Blau recovered. Shortly after, Mancuso found Kilpatrick on a leaping grab for another 24-yard touchdown, and then on the following kickoff, Kalk forced a fumble that Blau promptly returned for another score. Within a mere 8 minutes, Tech had turned a blowout into a tight 27-24 contest.

Western New England had multiple chances to put more points on the board, but crucial mistakes, including fumbles in their final two possessions, helped seal the Engineers’ comeback victory.

Perhaps one of the most telling stats of the game was Ramirez’s average of 37.5 yards per punt through the pouring rain, including four that landed inside the 20-yard line. By Tech’s final punt of the game with around 90 seconds to go, the game balls were clearly soaked and slippery in spite of being alternated and wiped down every few plays. The long snap fell well short of Ramirez, but he fluidly picked up the ball on one bounce and boomed a huge kick in one motion, salvaging what could have been disastrous field position. “Special teams was a key that we had talked about,” said Coach Dwight E. Smith. “Ramirez came up big in this game.”

As the clock wound down to zeroes following MIT’s fifth fumble recovery of the game, the Tech players’ cheers could be heard across campus. “This was a character builder for a young team,” Smith said. “[This comeback] was definitely up there as one of the greatest I’ve been a part of.”

“Our kids simply had more will than the other team,” said Offensive Line Coach Rick Adams.

By the end of the game, the wind and rain hadn’t slowed down one bit, and the temperature had dropped a couple of degrees. The composition of the field had become primarily mud, as had many of the players’ jerseys. But after one of the greatest comebacks in MIT history, it felt like a sunny 80 degree day without a cloud in the sky.