MANCHESTER, N.H. – After a back-and-forth first half saw the visitors erase deficits on three different occasions to force a 21-21 stalemate at the midpoint, the Merrimack College football team put together some big plays on both sides of the ball to take a 10-point lead in the third quarter and then held off the hosts in the final minutes, as the Warriors secured their second straight win with a 31-28 road victory at Saint Anselm on Saturday at Grappone Stadium.
Score: Merrimack 31, Saint Anselm 28
Records: Merrimack (3-4, 3-3 NE10) | Saint Anselm (1-5, 1-5 NE10)
Location: Grappone Stadium | Manchester, Mass.
How It Happened
- After an early score by Saint Anselm, the Merrimack defense forced a turnover on downs and then capitalized, as the all-freshman duo of Christian Carter and Johnny Rosario connected for a game-tying touchdown halfway through the opening quarter.
- The Hawks – after turning the Warriors on downs two drives later – came up with an answer on the final drive of the opening quarter and retook the lead at 14-7 to start the second frame. But the pendulum quickly swung back in favor of the visitors, as Carter wrapped up another game-tying drive with a short pass to senior Cody Demers to make it 14-14 early in the second.
- Saint Anselm would go back in front three drives later, but yet again the Warriors had an answer, orchestrating a six-play, 75-yard scoring drive that ended with redshirt junior Marquis Spence catching Carter’s third touchdown pass of the half to even the ledger at 21-all.
- The Hawks had a late opportunity to take a lead into the half, but a 29-yard field goal attempt missed wide, keeping it tied entering the second half.
- Merrimack’s defense forced a pair of punts after a 26-yard field goal from redshirt sophomore Corey Resendes gave the Warriors a three-point lead early in the third.
- A few drives later, the defense came through with the play that ultimately led to the game-winning touchdown on a strip sack and return. Redshirt sophomore Michael Mercuri came up with the takeaway, and classmate Jake Ragusa scooped it and scored from 15 yards away to give the Warriors their largest lead of the day at 31-21 late in the third.
- That wasn’t all for the defensive stand in the third, as redshirt sophomore Maverick Gamble came up with the first of two second-half interceptions by the Warriors as the Hawks were threatening on their next drive.
- As the clock turned to the fourth quarter, the next two Saint Anselm drives ended in a turnover on downs at the Merrimack 31, and then an interception by junior Robert Hulse deep in Hawks territory, keeping the Warriors in front by double digits.
- Saint Anselm made things interesting with less than five minutes to play, finding the end zone with just over three minutes left to get to within three. But the ensuing onside kick was hauled in by the Warriors, and a key first down on a keeper by Carter with under 90 seconds left sealed the win for the visitors, who moved back to .500 in conference play with the victory.
- Mercuri continues to raise the bar as one of the Warriors’ top defensive – and overall – players with another stellar outing in Saturday’s win. He had a team-high 10 tackles (6 solo) while setting a new career-high with 2-1/2 sacks and five total tackles for losses totaling 24 yards. He forced the game-changing fumble return for a touchdown and had three other quarterback hurries.
- A week after earning the New Football Writers Gold Helmet Award for his offensive contributions in the road win at Stonehill, Carter did not slow down against Saint Anselm. He passed for another 362 yards on 31 completions on 53 attempts (58.3%); he added three more touchdowns and was intercepted for only the third time this season while adding another 68 yards rushing for 430 yards of total offense.
- Spence and Demers totaled exactly 98 yards apiece – a new single-game high for the former – while Rosario finished with 72, as the trio combined for 21 of Carter’s 31 completions. Altogether, eight different Warriors hauled in a catch on Saturday.
- The interceptions for Gamble and Hulse were the first of their careers. Further, six different Warriors broke up a pass in Saturday’s win, including two by Gamble.
Notes & Numbers
- Merrimack improved to 15-6 all-time against Saint Anselm with the victory, including 6-3 on the road. The Warriors have now won the last two games and three of the last four over the Hawks.
- The Warriors put together over 450 yards of total offense for the second straight game with 362 of those yards coming in the air.
- Merrimack’s rushing offense has posted 100-plus yards in all but one game this season.
- The three takeaways by the defense matched a season-high, which also happened in the Warriors’ win at Bentley on Sept. 15.
- Total Yards (Rushing-Passing-Total): 109-362—471 // 86-359—445
- Takeaways (INT/FF): 2/1 // 1/1
- Sacks: 4 // 0
- Total 1st Downs: 26 // 30
- 3rd Down Conversions: 8-20 | 5-17
- 4th Down Conversions: 1-2 | 1-4
- Time of Possession: 35:42 // 24:18
Merrimack returns to North Andover for its annual Homecoming Weekend game against AIC next Saturday (Oct. 27), with kickoff from Merrimack Stadium set for 1 p.m.