WARRIORS OVERCOME EARLY DEFICIT TO WIN 100TH GAME IN PROGRAM HISTORY N '13 FINALE
Links: Box Score
NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – Trailing by 21 points early in the second quarter, the Merrimack College football team, led by senior quarterback Joe Clancy (Newburyport, Mass.) and senior cornerback Artis Holt (Newburyport, Mass.), forced five Southern Connecticut State interceptions and outscored the Owls, 22-3, in the second half, as the Warriors closed out the 2013 campaign with a 35-24 victory on Northeast-10 Championship Weekend on Saturday at Martone-Mejail Field.
Score: #5 Merrimack 35, #8 Southern Connecticut State 24
Records: Merrimack (7-4) | Southern Connecticut (3-8)
Location: Martone-Mejail Field | North Andover, Mass.
How It Happened
In a game that saw the visitors commit five giveaways – all by means of interceptions – it was a costly Merrimack miscue that resulted in a 55-yard interception return early in the second quarter after the Owls had already built themselves a 14-0 lead, as Southern Connecticut found itself comfortably ahead by a 21-0 margin with 12:35 left in the second after the pick six.
But the Warriors, who were aiming for their 100th victory as a program and their first seven-win season since last winning the Northeast-10 Championship in 2009, refused to end the season on a sour note, as both sides of the ball woke up and dominated the rest of the way.
The comeback began on Merrimack's next drive, as Clancy found junior Zach Ingalls (Westford, Mass.) for a 19-yard score to cap off a six-play, 40-yard drive and get the Warriors on the board (21-7). Later in the second, Holt brought the home side to within one possession after intercepting Brandon Basil around midfield and going 47 yards to the house to make it a 21-13 contest at the half.
Following intermission, Southern padded its lead thanks to a 23-yard field goal from Devin Silverman, but that would be the last time the Owls would put points on the board thanks to stellar play on the defensive side of the play in the second half.
Merrimack needed seven plays on its next drive to answer the field goal, as Clancy hooked up with sophomore Jere Brown (Freeport, N.Y.) with 5:32 left in the second and got to within three points after converting a two-point conversion, sending the game to the final quarter with the Warriors within three (24-21).
After starting the final drive at the end of the third quarter, Clancy and Brown connected again on a 13-yard scoring pass to wrap up a nine-play, 77-yard drive early in the fourth quarter, putting the hosts ahead for good.
Southern, meanwhile, could not shake the turnovers, as the ball-hawking Merrimack defense finished with four picks against Basil and one more against Jack Mallis to keep the Owls at bay. Clancy, meanwhile, wrapped up his incredible two-season stretch as a starter with his fourth touchdown of the game, appropriately enough finding classmate Shane Ferguson (Point Pleasant Beach, N.J.) with just under three minutes left to wrap things up.
Clancy, a Harlon Hill Regional Finalist, finishes his career with 85 touchdown passes, 9,308 passing yards and 812 completions. The Newburyport, Mass., native's incredible two-year run ranking third in the NE-10 in passing touchdowns and yardage and first in completions, and became the first-ever player in league history to pass for over 4,000 yards in a single season this fall.
A Closer Look
- Southern Connecticut outgained Merrimack by a 371-297 margin and held a dominating edge in time of possession, 36:02-23:58, but Merrimack feasted on the Owls' five turnovers to put the game away
- Clancy finished Saturday 33-for-52 with 260 yards, four touchdowns and an interception, connecting with eight different receivers on the day
- Brown led all receivers with 87 yards on 10 catches, including a game-long 26-yard gain
- Defensively, the Warriors totaled 83 tackles on the afternoon, with 13 from sophomore Kristian Jackson (Shrewsbury, Mass.), who had a say in both of Merrimack's sacks on the day and led all Warriors with 2.5 tackles for losses totaling 14 yards
- Holt, meanwhile, was joined by junior James Flores (Brockton, Mass.), who notched two interceptions of his own, one for 26 yards and another for 49 yards.
- Merrimack was held to 39 percent of third downs (7-of-18) but converted two of its four fourth-down opportunities and held SCSU 0-for-1 on fourth down
- The Owls were strong on the ground, outgaining the Warriors by a 156-37 margin in rshing yards, with Mallis leading the way with 109 yards on 20 attempts with a score
- Basil finished 16-for-30 with 215 yards, a touchdown and four picks; his favorite receiver was C. Staggers, who hauled in 137 yards and a score on six catches, averaging 22.8 yards per grab