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Red Zone Turnovers Cost Football In Otherwise Strong Performance

By Ryan Lanphere

When all was said and done last Saturday, alternately dominating performances on both sides of the ball were not enough to overcome mental lapses and bad breaks as the Football Engineers of MIT (1-6, 2-7) fell to the Endicott College Gulls (5-2, 6-4) by a score of 21-16 in their final game of the 2006 season.

There were many positive takeaways from the Engineers final game of the 2006 season that will provide a solid foundation for next season. The biggest was how well the Engineers handled the Gulls on both sides of the ball for most of the game, out-gaining the Gulls 373 yards to 290. Even that was deceiving, as a majority of the Gulls offense came on two long plays, one 71-yard rush by running back Angelo Ortiz and a 77-yard pass play to Endicott wide out Ryan Maclean.

The Engineers also dominated time of possession, 35:10 to the Gulls 24:50, which kept MIT’s defense off of the field and well rested.

Untimely turnovers, which reflected consistency troubles all year, proved too much for the Engineers to overcome. The Engineers were zero for four in the red zone and should have scored more than the two touchdowns they managed. Three red zone trips ended on turnovers and one on downs. Twice they made it to the Endicott’s one-yard line only to turn it over.

The Engineers opened the game looking strong, leading off with a 7:15 14-play 64-yard drive but sputtered at the end, turning the ball over on downs at the Endicott 18-yard line. The drive was led by running back DeRon M. Brown ’10 who carried the ball three times for 35 yards and finished the day leading the Engineers on the ground with 11 carries for 53 yards.

On the Engineer’s very next possession quarterback Richard A. Mancuso ’09 connected with wide out Michael P. Fitzgerald ’10 on the second play for a 51 yard score. Failing to convert the extra point, the Engineers took a 6-0 lead.

Fitzgerald was big for the Engineers all day; in a breakout performance, he caught six passes for 98 yards, a third of his 2006 total.

On Endicott’s next possession, the Gulls quickly struck back with a 77-yard pass play of their own, on the third play of the drive, to Maclean from Gull quarterback Tyler Connelly. The Gulls converted the extra point for the first of 14 unanswered points.

Early in the second quarter the Engineers drove down to the Gulls one-yard line, but failed to score when running back Thomas C. Scotton ’07 fumbled on a first and goal. The Gulls than proceeded to drive the ball 99 yards in 4:27 and eight plays to extend their lead to 14-6 which they held until the second half. Most of those yards came on the 71-yard Ortiz run, which the Engineers had wrapped up in the Gulls end-zone but failed to bring down.

The Gulls had turnover problems of their own, fumbling the snap four times, which the Engineers recovered on three occasions. One of these occasions was in the middle of the third quarter where the Engineers took possession on the Endicott 31.

Quickly advancing the ball near the goal, the Engineers’ red-zone troubles continued when Mancuso had a pass intercepted on the Gulls one yard line.

Still very much in the game, the Engineers scored early in the fourth quarter tying the game 14-14 after a touchdown and a two-point conversion. The scored followed another Endicott botched snap, when Mancuso connect with Kevin T. Vogelsang ’09 for a 25-yard score. Mancuso than took the conversion in himself drawing the Engineers even.

MIT was held to three and out on its next possession. While attempting to punt, a low snap that could not be advanced gave Endicott the ball on the Engineers’ 10 yard line. Scoring in two plays, the Gulls took a 21-14 lead with 8:22 left in the ball game.

With 30 seconds left to play in the game, and backed up in their own end-zone, the Gulls took a gamble and elected to take a safety in order to prevent the Engineers from taking a deadly field position. This narrowed the score to 21-16.

Taking over at the Endicott 44-yard line with 19 seconds left to play the Engineers were unable to score, and the game ended on a Mancuso interception, his third of the day.

Other than his three interceptions, Mancuso was a solid 24 of 46 for 318 yards. Vogelsang led all MIT receivers with seven grabs for 130 yards and a touchdown, all of which earned him a spot on the New England Football Conference weekly honor roll.

The Engineers defense was led by a weekly honor roll nominee, linebacker Samuel A. Jasinski ’08 who finished the day with seven total tackles and two forced fumbles. David O. Kalk ’08 also chipped in with eight solo tackles and two tackles for a loss, one of which came on a five yard sack.

The Engineers finish their 2006 campaign with an overall record of 2-7. They compiled a division record of 1-6, finishing seventh in the NEFC Boyd division.