Merchant Marined Defeats Rensselaer in Season Finale
TROY, N.Y. - Junior quarterback Alex Coviello rushed for 135 yards and threw for 164 and three touchdowns to lead the United States Merchant Marine Academy to a 31-24 victory over Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in the season finale for both teams. The Mariners, who pick up their first win in Troy since 1960, move to 3-7 overall and 2-4 in the Liberty League, while the Engineers slip to 4-5 and 3-3.
Coviello (Cape Coral, FL/Cape Coral) threw for 164 yards by completing 5 of 7 passes with scoring strikes of 21, 78 and 29 yards - all in the first half. He carried the ball 25 times, the same number as classmate John-Leon Gosselin (Nashua, NY/Nashua North), who rushed for a game-high 208 yards and a touchdown.
Merchant Marine, which has played RPI just 20 times in program history, last won in Troy on October 8, 1960. The Mariners relied heavily on its rushing game in picking up their 11th win of the series (11-9), totaling 370 yards enroute to 534 total offensive yards on the day. Merchant Marine's defense held Rensselaer to just 156 yards on the ground. The Engineers accumulated 385 yards of total offense.
The Mariners pushed their way onto the scoreboard just 7:48 into the opening frame on a drive that lasted 14 plays and covered 77 yards as Coviello capped the drive with a 21-yard pass into the hands of wideout Chase Dunn.
The Engineers responded on their next possession, which included a nice one-handed grab by wide receiver Steven Burpoe (Saranac Lake, NY/Saranac Lake). That play brought RPI to the Mariners' 13-yard line, setting up a 29-yard field goal by freshman Andrew Franks (Carmel, CA/Carmel).
Merchant Marine wasted little time in making it a two-possession game before the end of the quarter as Coviello hooked up with Dunn once again - this time for a 78-yard pass and catch down the left sideline by Dunn, who broke through several tackles to make it into the end zone. A successful point-after kick by senior Richard Grennen (Port Jefferson Station, NY/St. Anthony's) saw the Mariners take a 14-3 lead heading into the second quarter.
Momentum continued to favor Merchant Marine as Grennen nailed a 35-yard field goal at the 11:47 mark to make it a 17-3 advantage. Rensselaer tried to pull closer with just over a minute remaining in the half, but Franks' attempted field goal into the wind from 39-yards out went just wide to the right of the uprights.
The Mariners quickly capitalized as they charged 78 yards down the field on a drive that took just 40 seconds and resulted in a touchdown pass from Coviello to sophomore Connor Kennedy (Bellerose, NY/St. Francis Prep.) with 28 seconds left to play. Grennen's PAT was good and the visitors held a 24-3 advantage into the halftime.
Opening the third quarter, Rensselaer found the end zone for its first TD of the day as junior quarterback Mike Hermann (Hardeeville, SC/Avon Old Farms) broke through multiple tackles on the far left side for a 62-yard scoring run. The drive, which took just two plays over 31 seconds, saw Franks hit the point-after to make it a 24-10 with 14:21 left to play in the frame.
Merchant Marine regained control and quickly battled their way down to attempt another field goal, but RPI senior Kevin Frame (Scotia, NY/Scotia-Glenville) came around the left side and blocked Grennen's kick.
Rensselaer tried to pull back into it late in the frame, but despite an incredible, one-handed 24-yard catch under heavy coverage by sophomore Reggie Colas (Miami, FL/Belen Jesuit), the Engineers turned it over to the Mariners on downs to start the final quarter.
With solid field position on its own 36-yard line, Merchant Marine took advantage, aided by a 44-yard rushing effort from Gosselin. After opening the drive with several short gains, Gosselin kept the ball in the Mariners possession with a two-yard effort on a fourth-and-one situation. He then added a seven-yard gain to set up first-and-goal before pushing it across from a yard out to make it a 31-10 lead.
The Engineers continued to battle late in the game as Hermann ran in his second score with 5:26 remaining to close the gap to 31-17. Highlighting the drive was a 32-yard pass to Burpoe under heavy pressure to get Rensselaer to the eight-yard line and set up the touchdown.
Rensselaer's persistence on the Mariners next drive pushed the home team even closer as senior Bryan Carmody (Rochester, NY/Greece Athena) blocked Grennen's punt attempt. The ball rolled into the end zone, where it was recovered by junior Dustin Schuld (East Brunswick, NJ/East Brunswick) for the touchdown.
RPI, now trailing 31-24, attempted an onside kick but the Mariners recovered and sealed the win with a first down.
Defensively for Merchant Marine, junior Chris Dumesnil (Woodstock, GA/Etowah) had 10 tackles, including seven unassisted, while junior linebacker Kevin Stapf (Fort Pierce, FL/Westwood) had eight tackles (4 solo).
Offensively for RPI, Hermann was 23-of-37 passing for 229 yards. He also ran for a team-high 135 yards on 14 carries with two touchdowns. Burpoe notched 101 receiving yards in the game, hauling in eight catches, while Colas had five receptions for 52 yards.
Junior Matthew Day (Claremont, NH/Stevens) led all tacklers in the game with 13 stops, while sophomore Ted Abriel (Slingerlands, NY/Bethlehem) made 11 tackles (4 solo).