Sports

Football Withstands Late Bryant Rally

footballThe Hawks' football team managed to fend off a late second half rally to defeat the Bulldogs of Bryant University, 21-18 for their last away game of the season. Fifth year senior tight end Michael McLafferty and junior running back Julian Hayes each scored touchdowns for the Hawks who improved their record to 6-5.

Bryant came onto the field strong as they took over after a partially blocked punt on MU's first possession and sustained a short drive that got the ball down the Hawk's 17-yard-line. The defense held in the rezone, forcing Bryant to take a 38-yard field goal with 5:47 to play in the first quarter. Bulldog Tom Alberti's kick split the uprights and gave his team a 3-0 lead.

On the Hawks' ensuing possession, the offense showed signs of life after a 'roughing the punter' call extended the drive, allowing junior quarterback Brandon Hill to find McLafferty for a 52-yard catch-and-run on the next play, setting up a first down on the 11-yard-line. Following a timeout, McLafferty was rewarded by hauling in a touchdown pass to put the Hawks up 7-3.

The Bulldogs' suffered on their next drive as senior defensive back Tevrin Brandon furthered the Hawks lead to 14-3. After coming clean on a punt, blocking it and then scooping it up, Brandon scored from 18-yards out with 41 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

The next scoring play occurred with 3:48 left in the second quarter; Hayes' 23-yard touchdown run gave the Hawks a 21-3 cushion heading into halftime. The run came one play after the junior became the third MU back in school history to eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing milestone.

"As a player, it's always really gratifying to be able to set milestones in your career, but first and foremost, all props go to the line," Hayes said. "I feel like it's their 1,000-yards just as much as me and everyone else who is blocking and doing a great job."

Bryant scored a pair of touchdowns in the second half and succeeded on a two-point conversion after a fourth quarter score to cut the lead to three. MU was unable to capitalize on their drive after Bryant's touchdown. Once the Bulldogs got the ball back, they marched to MU's 19, converting a third-and-24.

However, fifth year senior linebacker Dave Damirgian stuffed back-to-back runs on the goal line to set up a third-and-goal from the three. After an incomplete pass set up a fourth-and-goal from the 18, Alberti missed what would be the game-tying 35-yard field goal with 3:27 remaining in the game.

"I thought it was a game where, at the half, we were in control of things. I liked what we were doing on both sides of the ball," MU head coach Kevin Callahan said. "You have to give Bryant credit. They rebounded from that and were able to do a good job in the second half."

After Alberti's kick sailed wide left and the Hawks took over from their own 20-yard-line, senior running back KB Asante took six consecutive carries that got the ball over midfield. The Hawks were able to take a knee to preserve the win.

"Defensively, they really limited what we were able to do. On offense and offensively, they were able to get some things going through the air that got them back in the game. To the credit of our players, I thought when we had to make a stop on defense we did. In the last four minutes when we needed to run the clock out, our offensive line and backs did a good job of getting first downs," Callahan added.

Hayes finished with 86-yards on 20-carries, including the 23 yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Hill was 10-of-18 for 130-yards and an interception. McLafferty had 80 of those yards on four catches with a touchdown reception. Asante finished with 78-yards on 13-carries, including 40-yards on MU's game-sealing drive when he ran the ball six times.

Brandon had 7 solo tackles for the Hawks and one assist in addition to his punt block return for a touchdown. Fellow sophomore corner Joe Johnson had seven tackles while Damirgian also finished with seven tackles including three for a loss and a sack.

The Hawks will return to Kessler Field on Saturday, Nov. 23 to face the Duquesne University Dukes. This will be the final game of the season for the football team and will therefore act as their Senior Day. Essentially, the seniors will be honored for their contributions to the University's football program over the years.

The 2013 football roster includes 13 fifth year seniors and 16 seniors. Kickoff is set for noon.

PHOTO COURTESY of Jim Reme