Saints Fall Short in Bid to Retain Hoffman Cup, Lose To Mariners 23-17
Sept. 27: The St. Lawrence University football team's offense came to life on Saturday against Merchant Marine, as sophomore quarterback JP Kearney threw for 300 yards and two touchdowns while junior tail back Connor Hackett returned to the line-up and ran for 95 yards on 23 carries. However, their offensive output would fall just short, as the United State Merchant Marine Academy Mariners caused three key turnovers including one in their own red zone to hold on for a 23-17 victory in the annual Hoffman Cup game at Captain Tomb Field in Kings Point, NY.
The loss was the fourth straight for St. Lawrence, who falls to 0-4 on the season and 0-1 in Liberty League play while the Mariners even their record at 2-2 (1-0). Senior wide receiver Ryan Cooney was named St. Lawrence's Most Valuable Player of the Hoffman Cup game, as he came through with new career highs with eight catches for 187 yards and a touchdown.
Merchant Marine's offense went for 420 yards on Saturday, thought St. Lawrence did well several times to hold the home team to field goal chances. The Saints also racked up 356 yards of offense, but the three turnovers proved to be the difference.
Sophomore cornerback Louis Jenkins helped keep the game scoreless on Merchant Marine's second drive, as he stripped Mike Mitchell of the football at the St. Lawrence 18-yard line on a fake field goal try. Though St. Lawrence would pick up 37 yards to tip the field possession in their favor on the ensuing drive, the Mariners went 86 yards on eight plays on a drive that started on their own 14-yard line to take a 7-0 lead.
Quarterback Derrick Ventre completed two keys passes on the drive to get the ball into St. Lawrence territory. He then connected with Chris Rye for a 37-yard touchdown pass with 2:17 to play in the first to put his team on top, while Geoff Troy added the point after for the only points of the quarter.
After the teams exchanged three-and-outs, St. Lawrence's drive appeared to stall at the Merchant Marine 35-yard line when Kearney's pass fell incomplete to senior Hakiem Greenhut. However, the Mariners were called for pass interference, giving the Saints the ball with a fresh set of downs on the home team's 27-yard marker. The Scarlet and Brown were unable to do much with the ball following the penalty, though, as they turned the ball over on downs when Kearney was tackled one yard shy of the first down line on 4th-and-4.
The Saints' defensive unit would get their team the ball back with a solid stand, but the Mariners would cease an opportunity when the visitor's offense fumbled the ball on their own 47-yard line. Marucs Broeder recovered the ball for Merchant Marine, and the turnover would lead to a 46-yard field goal by Troy with 4:51 to play in the first half to put his team up 10-0.
Kearney would have an answer only 20 seconds later, though, as he connected with Cooney on the first play on the ensuing drive for an 85-yard touchdown completion, the team's longest offensive play of the 2008 season. Despite being hit as he threw the ball, Kearney lofted the pass right on target to Cooney, who had three steps on his defender. Senior Matt Popov added the extra point to close the gap to 10-7.
Merchant Marine's offense came right back with a sharp drive that allowed Ventre to set up 1st-and-goal at the St. Lawrence 9-yard line. The Saints' defense wouldn't budge, however, and forced a 26-yard field goal try by Troy that sailed wide right. Unfortunately for the Scarlet and Brown, a roughing the kicker penalty would give the home team new life, this time at the 5-yard line. In perhaps their biggest defensive stand of the season,
St. Lawrence again responded by keeping the Mariners out of the end zone, though Troy did tack on three points with a 21-yard field goal with only 36 seconds left in the first half.
St. Lawrence would take advantage of a miscue by Troy on the following kick-off to cut the lead to three at half time. Troy's kick-off went out of bounds and gave Kearney and the Saints' offense the ball at their own 40-yard line. After a ten yard pass to Cooney was followed by a 13-yard completion to junior Eric Jones, Kearney again found Cooney at the 28-yard line to give Popov a chance to inch his team closer before halftime. The Syracuse, NY native delivered with his longest collegiate field goal, a 45-yarder, to end the second quarter and give St. Lawrence momentum at the break trailing 13-10.
On their opening drive of the second half, the Saints had a chance to take their first lead of the season when they marched into the red zone and set up 1st-and-10 at the USMMA 20-yard line. On second down, St. Lawrence tried to get creative with a flea-flicker, but Kearney was sacked by Karl Heimbrock, who jarred the ball loose and it was recovered by Heimbrock and returned out to the St. Lawrence 43-yard line, ending the Saints' scoring threat.
That proved to be the last scoring chance in the third quarter, as the score remained 13-10 after three periods. Troy would add his third field goal of the afternoon from 19-yards out only 10 seconds into the fourth quarter, though, to build the home team's cushion back to six points at 16-10.
Needing to put points on the board, the Saints offense came away frustrated after a three-and-out forced a punt on the following drive. Starting at the
St. Lawrence 38-yard line, Ventre delivered the crucial blow on 3rd-and-4 as he found Daniel Lagomarsino for a 32-yard touchdown pass with 12:01 remaining in regulation. After Troy's extra point sailed through the uprights, Merchant Marine had their largest lead of the game at 23-10.
Trailing by two scores, Kearney got the Saints rolling again with key first down completions to junior Anthony Patterson and Jones which got St. Lawrence to the Merchant Marine 17-yard line. After a two yard carry by Hackett, though, Kearney was intercepted by Mike Gallucci at the 5-yard line to again squash the scoring chance and keep the Mariners ahead by two scores.
Though Merchant Marine wouldn't come away with any points on the following drive, they did something much more important: milk the clock. The Mariners drove 41 yards on 12 plays and knocked 6:25 off the game clock before turning the ball back over to the Saints on their own 33 yard line with a mere 28 seconds remaining in regulation.
St. Lawrence would make things a bit interesting in the waning seconds, as the offensive unit covered 67 yards in only 18 seconds, capped off by a 9-yard touchdown catch by Hackett to carve into the Merchant Marine lead. After Popov's second extra point of the day, the Saints trailed 23-17 and would attempt an onside kick to try and have a last-second chance. However, Popov's onside try failed, as the Mariners recovered and held on for a 23-17 victory to regain the Hoffman Cup.
The Mariners held a distinct edge in time of possession, 34:55 to 25:05 for St. Lawrence. Ventre finished 14-of-28 passing for 268 yards and two touchdowns, while tail back John Watson was a machine for Merchant Marine, carrying the ball 32 times for 155 yards. Defensively, junior Gerard Bryant had a season-high 11 solo tackles, including 4.0 tackles for a loss and a pair of sacks. Junior Gabe Colas and senior Josh Miller each added 8.0 tackles a piece.
St. Lawrence will look to end their current four-game losing skid next weekend when Hobart College visits Canton, NY. The Saints and Statesmen will square off at Leckonby Stadium beginning at 1:00pm on Saturday, October 4th.