Cadets Hand Saints 27-7 Loss in Home Opener
Sept. 13: The St. Lawrence University football team received an impressive performance by junior tailback Eric Jones against Norwich on Saturday in the Saints' home-opener at Leckonby Stadium. Jones rushed for 99 yards on 19 carries and added a touchdown, but much like last weekend against Johns Hopkins, costly turnovers would doom the Saints as they fell to the Cadets, 27-7.
In a game that featured both team's ground attacks, Norwich out-gained St. Lawrence 253-191 with the Saints holding a 96-49 yard advantage on passing plays. Though the statistics were very evenly matched, the home team turned the ball over four times, one of which led to a defensive touchdown.
After the Saints' defense forced Norwich to punt on the opening series, the home team started their first drive with junior quarterback Mike Wayne under center making his first collegiate start. However, on the opening snap, Wayne handed off to fellow classmate Chris Wagner, who was popped by Norwich's senior linebacker Jim Kiritsy, jarring the ball loose. Norwich's Donovan Brown scooped up the ball at the St. Lawrence 20-yard line and took it to the end zone for a 6-0 lead for the visitors. The extra point try failed.
St. Lawrence appeared to have put the play behind them only moments later as the offensive unit crossed into Norwich territory. Wayne made a slick move out of the backfield on a quarterback keeper that allowed him to pick up 14-yards and reach the 26-yard line. However, Brown was there to make the play again, as he drilled the quarterback in the open field to knock the ball loose and give his team possession, keeping St. Lawrence off the scoreboard.
Norwich's senior tailback Darnell Jackson ran hard throughout the first quarter and seemed to be only a step away from breaking a big run for the Cadets. After starting a drive on his own 29-yard line, Cadet quarterback Guerschom Jean-Gilles rushed the ball from the St. Lawrence 27-yard line all the way down to the 6-yard marker on a clutch third down conversion. One play later, it was Jackson who rushed up the middle untouched for a 6-yard score. The two-point conversion attempt was successful and the Cadets held a 14-0 lead only 27 seconds into the second quarter.
The Scarlet and Brown would reach the red zone on consecutive possessions after falling behind 14-0, but came away empty handed. After rookie Ramon Mignott appeared to have St. Lawrence all the way down on the Norwich 8-yard line, a penalty followed by a sack pushed the Saints out of field goal range. After the team's defense allowed only one first down and got the ball back, senior kicker Matt Popov missed a 31-yard field goal attempt to continue the Saints' early-season frustrations and send the team to halftime trailing 14-0.
The Saints' defense, anchored again this weekend by junior Gerard Bryant, appeared to hold Norwich on their opening drive of the second half. However, St. Lawrence was called for pass interference on third down on a ball that appeared to be well over the head of the intended receiver. The Cadets took advantage of the break, though, as Jackson broke the very next play for a 56-yard touchdown run for a 20-0 Norwich lead with 11:41 to play in the third quarter. The extra point failed for the second time in the game.
The Saints would put together a hard-nosed drive midway through the third quarter that seemed to energize the team and spark the offense, as it led to the team's first touchdown of the 2008 season. After starting at their own 39-yard line, the Saints marched 61 yards on nine consecutive running plays, with the drive capped off by a five yard touchdown run by Jones to get the Saints on the scoreboard, 20-6. Popov added the extra point.
In the fourth quarter, it was the Cadets' defense that would seal the victory, as Kiritsy along with cornerback Dan Wilde and defensive lineman Jason Springer made plays all over the field. After Wayne was forced to leave the game due to injury, Brown welcomed sophomore quarterback JP Kearney to the game by intercepting his fourth passing attempt to end the Saints' drive in Norwich territory. After giving the ball back to the Scarlet and Brown, the Cadets' defensive unit forced a crucial three-and-out.
With the ball back in their offense's hands, Norwich pounded away in the running game behind Jackson and Jean-Gilles. Jackson put the game out of reach when he burst up the middle, made a great move to elude a St. Lawrence defender and rumbled across the goal for a 26-yard touchdown, his third of the game, to put the Cadets on top 27-7 after the extra point with 3:28 to play.
St. Lawrence did have a chance to cut into the lead on their final drive in the last minute of regulation as Kearny led the offense down to the Norwich 6-yard line. However, the Cadets' defense held and brought the game to its final score of 27-7.
Jackson finished with 209 yards and three scores for Norwich, while Jean-Gilles racked up 42 yards on the ground and was 6-of-15 passing for 49 yards. Jones was the Saints' leading rusher with 99 yards, while Mignott added 20 yards on six carries. Wayne, who also ran for 20 yards, was 8-of-18 for 42 yards passing while Kearney was 6-of-17 for 54 yards and a pick.
Bryant, who was outstanding for St. Lawrence against Johns Hopkins at the defensive tackle position, continued to prove he is one of the top players in the region with a game-high 15 tackles including 2.5 for a loss and two forced fumbles. Junior linebacker Gabe McBride (11 tackles) also had a solid day for the Scarlet and Brown on the defensive side of the ball. Kiritsy led Norwich with 10 tackles, 1.5 for a loss, and a forced fumble, while Springer and Brown chipped in eight tackles a piece.
St. Lawrence, who falls to 0-2 for the first time since the 2002 season, will look to pick up its first win of the 2008 campaign when Alfred University travels to Canton, NY on Saturday, September 20th. Kick-off is set for 1:00pm.