Last-Second Field Goal Sinks William Paterson Football, 51-48
WAYNE, N.J. – A 27-yard field goal as time expired allowed Morrisville State (2-2, 1-0 NJAC) to escape William Paterson (2-3, 0-2 NJAC) with a 51-48 New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) football victory Oct. 5.
The Pioneers tied the score at 48-48 with 40.4 seconds remaining and it appeared that the two teams were headed to overtime, but a 31-yard completion on second-and-10 put the Mustangs in field-goal range with 1.3 seconds left. After burning its final timeout, Morrisville State sent placekicker Zach Drake out to attempt the 27-yarder, and he split the uprights to give the Mustangs their first win against WP in six tries.
Senior quarterback Ryan Gresik (Newton, N.J./Newton) was 34-for-52 for 519 yards and five touchdowns. He shattered WP's single-game passing yardage record (398, Rob Warchol vs. Cortland, 10/20/01) and tied the program's single-game touchdown passes top mark (five, Dan Lamego at U.S. Merchant Marine, 9/15/07). Gresik also surpassed Matt Marshall's career touchdown passes mark of 33 (2008-09), increasing his total to 36.
The Mustangs received the opening kickoff and marched 55 yards down the field, the final 38 on a pass play from junior quarterback Lemar Johnson to sophomore running back Cristian Pena, to hand Morrisville State a 7-0 lead 1:17 into the contest.
The Pioneers elected to go for it on fourth-and-one at the MSC-2 during their first possession, but a loss of three yards on the rushing play kept WP off the scoreboard.
After forcing a punt, William Paterson was able to find the end zone when senior wide receiver Julian Frazier (Plainfield, N.J./North Plainfield) beat the secondary and Gresik found him over the top of the coverage, a 59-yard scoring play. Junior Robert Sinegra (Wharton, N.J./Morris Knolls) converted the extra point and the score was tied at 7-7 with 7:21 remaining in the first quarter.
A 53-yard Gresik-to-Mick Paye (Lumberton, N.J./Rancocas Valley Regional) pass play got the Pioneers into the red zone during their next drive, and sophomore running back Matt Deiana (Somers, N.Y./Somers) finished it off with a one-yard run to hand WP its first lead of the game at 14-7 with 3:01 on the clock.
The Pioneer defense forced a three-and-out, and William Paterson started its next possession at its own 38-yard line. After a quick seven-yard strike to Paye, freshman Jerome Alexander (Montclair, N.J./Glen Ridge) ran a curl route and got his defender on his outside hip. Gresik hit him in stride and Alexander turned up field and sprinted the 55 yards to the end zone (21-7, 1:22).
Drake started the second quarter by missing a 35-yard field goal wide right, and WP followed by adding seven more points to its lead when Paye beat his man downfield and hauled in Gresik's pass, a 48-yard touchdown that made it a 28-7 contest with 12:50 left before halftime.
The Pioneers forced another Morrisville punt but it was fumbled and recovered by the Mustangs at the WP-22. But, the turnover didn't cost William Paterson on the scoreboard because senior cornerback Andre Snead (Atlantic City, N.J./Atlantic City) came up with his second interception of the season, picking off Johnson's seven-yard, second-and-goal attempt in the end zone.
William Paterson elected to go for it on fourth-and-one at the MSC-16, but the pass fell incomplete. Morrisville State was faced with a similar situation at the other end of the field during its next possession, and Johnson found sophomore Anthony Gray in the back of the end zone on a fourth-and-four play from the WP-13 (28-14, 5:07).
Following a three-and-out for the Pioneer offense, the Mustangs put together a nine-play, 85-yard drive, capped by a 12-yard touchdown pass by Johnson to Gray that made it a one-possession game at 28-21 with 54 seconds remaining in the second quarter. Alexander's 59-yard kickoff return gave William Paterson a chance to add to its lead before the intermission, but a substitution infraction backed the Pioneers up five yards, and Sinegra's 47-yard attempt fell short with six seconds left.
The two teams traded punts to start the third quarter, but Johnson's 13-yard run to the right pylon tied the game at 28-28 at the 7:29 mark and swung the momentum in the Mustangs' favor. Another WP three-and-out gave Morrisville State good field position at its own 40-yard line, and seven plays later Pena got out to the right edge and turned upfield, covering the 27 yards to the goal line (35-28, 3:35).
Deiana's fumble was recovered by senior defensive tackle David Williams near midfield, and the Mustangs quickly turned it into six points with a six-yard TD run by Pena to the left pylon. Drake missed the extra point, but Morrisville State still owned a 41-28 advantage with 1:16 on the clock.
With the game in danger of slipping away, Alexander gave the Pioneers exactly the boost they needed, fielding a bouncing kickoff at the nine-yard line and finding a lane all the way to the goal line, a 91-yard touchdown return that pulled WP back within a touchdown. Sinegra missed his first PAT of the season, but William Paterson trailed by just seven 62 seconds before the end of the third quarter (41-34).
Morrisville State was threatening near midfield to open the fourth, but freshman defensive back Kell'E Gallimore's (Plainfield, N.J./Plainfield) sack knocked the ball loose and sophomore Dan Eremita (Cortlandt Manor, N.Y. Lakeland) recovered the loose ball at the MSC-23. Gresik wasted no time, immediately hitting sophomore running back Darius Kersey (Dover, N.J./Dover) with a fade to the back-left corner of the end zone and forging a 41-41 deadlock at the 14:45 mark.
Eremita was again the man on the spot, this time falling on Pena's fumble at the WP-1 as the Mustangs threatened to score again. William Paterson was forced to punt the ball back to Morrisville State eight plays later, giving the Mustangs a drive start at their own 47-yard line.
After a holding call backed up Morrisville State, Johnson moved the chains with an 18-yard completion to Josh Powell on second-and-11, and he picked up five yards on his own on third-and-four from the WP-30. The two connected again when Powell out jumped his defender, caught the ball and fell backwards into the end zone, a 25-yard scoring play. This time Drake's kick was true, and the Mustangs held a 48-41 edge with 7:48 to play.
William Paterson was caught off guard by an onside kick, as junior Freddie Gaetean fielded it cleanly and untouched at the Morrisville-47. Drake had a chance to make it a two-possession game with a 22-yard field-goal attempt, but his kick was wide right. Despite the miss, the Mustangs were able to burn four precious minutes off the clock, leaving William Paterson with a drive start on its own 20-yard line, 3:43 on the clock and two timeouts remaining.
The start of the possession wasn't promising with an eight-yard loss on a sack and an incompletion, but Gresik connected with senior Mike Vannucci (Bethpage, N.Y./Plainedge) for 15 yards to bring up a fourth-and-three. Following a timeout, Gresik threw a seven-yard completion to senior tight end Brian Winfield (Newton, N.J./Newton), then immediately followed with an 11-yard scramble. A short run and back-to-back false start penalties backed WP up to its own 38-yard line, but Gresik again moved the chains with a 22-yard strike to Winfield on second-and-17.
After a Morrisville State timeout at the 1:15 mark, a five-yard gain and two incompletions again left the Pioneers staring at fourth down, but Kersey turned a short pass into a 15-yard play up the left sideline, and Gresik followed with a seven-yard throw to Winfield, who was hurt on the play with 44.4 seconds remaining. William Paterson used its final timeout rather than see 10 seconds taken off the clock for the injury, but as it turned out it didn't need the extra time as Gresik connected with Kersey on a quick slant for an 11-yard touchdown. Sinegra's extra point tied the game at 48-48 with 40.4 seconds to play.
Morrisville State began its final drive with 35.1 seconds remaining and at its own 30-yard line. A 15-yard pass to Powell, an incompletion and a three-yard Johnson-to-Shane Carroll connection made it third-and-seven at the Mustang-48. After using its second timeout with 17.4 seconds left, Morrisville moved the chains with an 11-yard pass by Johnson to Powell, and the team rushed to the line to spike it and stop the clock with 7.6 ticks left. A 31-yard pass to Gray in the middle of the field put the Mustangs in field-goal range at the WP-10, and a quick timeout stopped the clock with 1.3 seconds to play. Drake's 27-yarder sailed through the goal posts as the final horn sounded.
Deiana and Kersey each gained 44 yards on the ground on a combined 20 attempts. Paye caught seven passes for 151 yards and a score, Frazier hauled in five passes for 90 yards and a touchdown, and Alexander picked up 80 yards on three catches, finding the end zone once.
Senior linebacker David Zurla (Rutherford, N.J./Rutherford) and junior defensive lineman Pat Thomas (Lodi, N.J./Lodi) each finished with a game-best 12 tackles. Junior defensive back Elijah DeGuzman (Pennsauken, N.J./Pennsauken) had 11 stops (seven solo) and two pass breakups, junior linebacker Ben Allen (Ventnor, N.J./Atlantic City) forced a fumble and tallied 10 tackles (seven solo). Eremita added seven stops to his two fumble recoveries.
Frazier averaged 44.2 yards on five punts, and Alexander returned six kickoffs for 247 yards and a touchdown (41.2 yards/return).
Johnson was 32-for-52 for 455 yards, four touchdowns and an interception, and rushed 14 times for 93 yards and a score. Pena picked up 216 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries, and Powell caught 12 passes for 207 yards and a score.
Senior defensive back Jeremy Stewart led the Morrisville State defense with nine tackles (eight solo) and two pass breakups, and junior linebacker Delroy Young had eight stops (four solo, 2.0 TFL, 1.0 sack).
William Paterson will finish its three-game homestand Saturday, Oct. 12, at 12:00 p.m. against Brockport.
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