KINGS POINT, N.Y. – Junior Jake McDonough kicked his third field goal of the game from 27 yards as time expired to lift the USMMA football team to a 16-13 victory over Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) at Brooks Stadium.
The win improves the Mariners’ record to 4-2 (3-1 Liberty League), while the Engineers fall to 4-3 (2-2) in defeat.
The game seemed to be heading for overtime, as Merchant Marine was forced to punt late in the fourth with the score tied, 13-13, but the return was fumbled deep in RPI territory. Junior Isaac Lee was credited with the forced fumble, and classmate Justin Sydlowski jumped on the loose ball to set the Mariners up with possession at the Engineers 14-yard line with just 17 seconds left on the clock.
After a three-yard rush by sophomore Wiley Martin, USMMA called timeout with just two seconds left. RPI then used its two remaining timeouts to try and ice McDonough, but he converted to win the game.
The entire game went quickly prior to the final sequence; the first half alone took just over an hour to complete and the score was tied at 3-3 after 30 minutes of play.
The Engineers were unable to take advantage of two first quarter turnovers by the Mariners, as the Merchant Marine defense came up big with a huge fourth-down stop deep at the USMMA three-yard line to end the first threat and then again forced RPI to turn the ball over on downs later in the quarter to thwart any momentum for the visitors.
A 30-yard field goal early in the second quarter by junior Christian Kapp gave the Engineers a 3-0 lead, but McDonough responded with a field goal to end the half.
The Mariners began with possession to start the third quarter, but fumbled the ball away deep in their territory just two plays in. Two plays after that, RPI freshman QB Tommy Avery connected with juniorJohnny Ramsdell for an 11-yard TD pass to give the Engineers a 10-3 lead.
USMMA fumbled once again on its next drive, but got the ball back on an RPI fumble two plays later. McDonough then nailed his second FG, a 32-yarder, at 6:47 of the third to pull the Mariners back to within four, 10-6.
After the Merchant Marine defense forced a quick three-and-out, the Mariners got the ball back and marched 71 yards on 14 plays, but McDonough’s field goal attempt late in the third went just wide left of the upright.
Again, USMMA forced the Engineers offense into a three-and-out, and on the ensuing drive, Martin capped off a 17-play, 63-yard drive with a two yard touchdown run at 8:36 of the fourth to give the Mariners their first lead of the day, 13-10, after McDonough’s PAT.
The Engineers responded on the very next drive, however, as Kapp nailed a 30-yard field goal to tie the game with just 4:23 to go.
That’s the point when the game started to slow down, when both teams were trying to find the winning score as time ran down. RPI’s Ryan Buss intercepted a pass – his second INT of the game – in their territory with just 1:51 to go in the quarter, but again the offense was forced to punt. After the Mariners went three-and-out with under 30 seconds left is when junior Erik Swayne’s punt to the RPI five-yard line was returned five yards by Connor Davies, who was tackled hard by Lee, forcing the ball to come out.
Junior Robert Moore led the Mariners offense with 88 rushing yards, while also going 8-for-14 for 68 passing yards. Senior Spencer Blauw had 29 yards on the ground, and Martin finished with 64 yards and the TD. Defensively, senior Channing Meyer registered a team-high nine tackles, while sophomore Brooks Cannell made eight stops.
For RPI, sophomore Nick Cella gained 56 yards on the ground and classmate Rob Law had 43 rushing yards. Avery was 9-for-13 passing for 46 yards and sophomore Keaton Ackermann was his top target with three catches for 15 yards. Senior Alexander Greenidge led all players in the game with 17 tackles for the Engineers, one of four players with double-digit tackles.