Worcester, MA --- Quarterback Matthew McDaniels (Malverne, NY) and running back Zachary Boucher (Wyckoff, NJ) combined to rush for 240 yards and three touchdowns to propel visiting US Merchant Marine Academy to a 26-14 victory over WPI in a Liberty League football contest played on Saturday.
Merchant Marine, who was playing for the first time in October because of the government shutdown, improves to 4-1 on the season and 1-1 in conference action. WPI is now 2-5 overall and 1-3 in Liberty League play.
The scoring started with 5:53 remaining in the first quarter with a 1-yard touchdown run by Boucher to put US Merchant Marine up 7-0. The Mariners defense was the story in the first quarter, limiting WPI to just one first down and forced the Engineers into five punts in the opening 15 minutes.
On the first play of the second quarter, Boucher rumbled 35 yards into the red zone and the drive was finished off two plays later with a 15 yard touchdown pass from McDaniels to senior wide receiver Matthew Berglund (North Kingstown, RI). A Daniel Kennedy (Youngstown, OH) extra point put Merchant Marine up 14-0 just 1:12 into the second quarter. On its next possession, USMMA was facing a 3rd and 3 when McDaniels went 78 yards to push the advantage to 20-0 after the PAT was missed.
Zach Grasis (East Brookfield, MA) returned the ensuing kickoff for WPI 49 yards to the USMMA 36. The Engineers followed with a seven play drive that culminated in a one-yard touchdown plunge by Grasis for his eighth touchdown of the season and 12th of the junior's career. Blaine Bursey (Middleburg, FL) converted the extra point to make it 20-7.
McDaniels was intercepted by WPI's Jake Brown (Fall River, MA) on the next possession giving WPI the ball back in USMMA territory, but WPI was unable to move the ball any further and the teams headed to the locker room with the Mariners leading 20-7
After forcing a Merchant Marine punt on the opening possession of the second half, WPI raced the ball up the field primarily with the thunder and lightning duo of Grasis and junior tailback Chris Turner (Middletown, CT) all the way down to the USMMA one yard line. The drive was capped off with a one yard scoring run by junior quarterback Jacob Grills (East Lyme, CT) bringing the Engineers to 20-14. Grasis carried six times on the drive for 36 yards while Turner two times for 19 yards.
With McDaniels on the sideline for the second half, USMMA leaned heavily on Boucher. The sophomore amassed 56 yards on 16 second half carries, including a one-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter to cap the scoring.
McDaniels finished with 136 yards on 16 first half carries and ran and threw for a touchdown score. Boucher ended the day with 103 yards and the two rushing touchdowns. Grasis paced WPI with 116 rushing yards on a game-best 31 touches. Grills completed just 18-of-41 passes for 167 yards as the passing game was hampered by windy conditions. Ehab Hamdan (Revere, MA) led the wide receivers with six catches for 49 yards for the Engineers.
Junior Ryan Mathie (Smithtown, NY) led the WPI defense with 11 tackles (7 solo) while Brown, Kevin Lynch (East Bridgewater, MA) and Jonathan Arnone (Clinton, MA) all chipped in with eight tackles apiece. The USMMA defense was paced by senior linebacker Michael Biehn(The Woodlands, TX) with nine tackles (7 solo), including a sack. Classmate Patrick Clarke(Tampa, FL) and freshman Patrick Keyes (Parssipanny, NJ) both registered eight stops while Clarke and junior Cody Fields (Vancouver, WA) collected sacks.
The game was close statistically with Merchant Marine holding an edge in slight yards (316 to 297) and time of possession (31:57 to 28:03) and WPI holding a 16-11 advantage in first down and forcing the game's only turnover.
Both teams turn their attention to 1pm road games next Saturday. WPI ventures to Canton, NY to face St. Lawrence while Merchant Marine heads to Rensselaer to battle WPI.
Release written by Joe Nichols - WPI Intern