NORTHFIELD, Vt.— A 27-yard field goal completion by junior kicker Patrick Wilson (West Rupert, Vt.) with zero seconds left on the clock in the fourth quarter would be the score that the Norwich University football team needed to down Western New England University 26-24 in the season opener for both teams at Sabine Field on Saturday afternoon.
Senior quarterback Kris Sabourin (Georgia, Vt.) completed 13 out of 27 passing attempts and totaled 210 yards while throwing two interceptions. Sabourin also added 64 rushing yards including two touchdown runs.
Senior running back Danny Triplett (Haverhill, Mass.) led Norwich in the rushing category with 76 yards and an average of 6.3 yards per-carry. Junior wide receiver Zach Allen (Boston, Mass.) led the Cadets in receiving as he totaled 130 yards and one touchdown in four catches.
Western New England's offensive efforts were led by quarterback John Krafick, who completed 23 of 42 passing attempts and totaled 229 yards with two touchdown passes. Kevin Cook led the Golden Bears in rushing with a net of 32 yards and an average of 3.2 yards per carry.
The game opened with two scoreless possessions apiece before the Golden Bears opened scoring on their third drive of the game. The Golden Bears would start the drive on the Norwich 45-yard line and use 10 plays and three first-downs to lead to a 1-yard run by Nick Cook to score. A good extra-point attempt by Nick Fox-Edele gave Western New England the 7-0 lead.
After Norwich's Triplett collected the kickoff at the 41-yard line, senior quarterback Sabourin completed a 37-yard pass to Allen to set the first-down. A 17-yard rush by Triplett would put the Cadets on the Western New England five-yard line, and Sabourin would run the ball for five yards to put the Cadets on the board. Wilson's extra-point attempt was good to even the score at 7-7.
Norwich took a 14-7 lead in the second quarter on a 55-yard pass by Sabourin to Allen and a good extra-point attempt by Wilson. The Golden Bears responded on the next drive, using nine plays and 2:06 to move 75 yards, culminating with a 24-yard pass by quarterback John Krafick to Craig Durkin.
Norwich started the last drive of the half at the 2:33 mark and took ten plays to set up Wilson for a 26-yard field goal to give the Cadets the 17-14 lead entering halftime.
After a scoreless third quarter that saw each team take four possessions, Western New England opened the scoring in the fourth quarter with a 6-yard run by Adam Dunne and a good extra-point attempt by Fox-Edele to give the Golden Bears the 21-17 edge.
Norwich and Western New England both ran scoreless drives before Norwich's Sabourin completed a four-yard touchdown rush to the right side of the end zone to give Norwich the 23-21 advantage.
A missed extra-point attempt gave Western New England an opportunity to take the lead, which they capitalized on with a Fox-Edele 37-yard field goal with 1:04 remaining on the game clock.
Down by one point, Norwich began its drive with 57-seconds on the clock. After registering an incomplete pass, Sabourin then found Allen for a 34-yard run to the Western New England 37-yard line. Sabourin rushed for eight yards on second-and-10, and after an incomplete pass on third-down, Sabourin completed a nine-yard pass to Dan Jamieson (Morris Plains, N.J.) to bring the Cadets to the Western New England 20-yard line. The Cadets would take three plays advance to the eight-yard line, setting Wilson up for the game-winning field goal.
Defensively, the Cadets were led by junior defensive back Ethan Hanks (Hull, Mass.) who posted a team-high nine tackles including one tackle-for-loss. Junior defensive lineman Nick Pulaski (Statford, Conn.) recorded a game-high two sacks for a total loss of four yards.
Western New England's defense was led by Nathan Fleming, who posted a game-high 10 tackles, and Greg Hanson, who recorded eight tackles.
The Norwich win evens the four-year series with Western New England to 2-2 and avenges last season's 28-24 loss to the Golden Bears in the season opener in Springfield, Mass. last season.
The Cadets return to the field next Saturday, Sept. 8 when they travel to St. Lawrence for a 1:00 p.m. non-conference matchup.