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Football’s Comeback Falls Short at LIU

LIU Athletics



0-3 , 0-3



2-2 , 2-2

Score By Quarters




6 6 0 8 20

14 10 7 0 31

Game Recap: Football |

Links: Box Score

BROOKVILLE, N.Y. – The Merrimack College football team used an early touchdown in the fourth quarter to pull within 11 points of Long Island University, 31-20, on Sunday afternoon at Bethpage Federal Credit Union Stadium, and had opportunities throughout the fourth to trim into the deficit even further, but LIU held on for the victory. The result dropped Merrimack’s record to 0-3 (0-3 NEC) on the year while LIU improved to 2-2 (2-2 NEC).

The Warriors scored first on Sunday, but saw the Sharks respond with three touchdowns to build a 15-point lead. Merrimack trailed by 12 at the half, and 19 entering the fourth quarter before its TD and two-point conversion brought the deficit to 11. The team had three drives in the fourth to try and make it a one-possession game, but were unable to do so.

Merrimack recovered two fumbles, held LIU to just a 36.7 (10-28) completion percentage as well as a 26.7 percent success rate on third down (4-15). The hosts helped prevent Merrimack’s comeback by totaling four interceptions as well as turning the ball over on downs twice.

Redshirt-freshman quarterback Jack Esquivel threw for a career-high 203 yards and two touchdowns. Junior wide receiver Anthony Norcia registered career highs in receptions (7) and yards (68). On the other side of the ball, senior cornerback Caleb Holden had an impressive effort with a career-high four pass break-ups.

The Essentials
Score: LIU 31, Merrimack 20
Records: Merrimack (0-3, 0-3 NEC) | LIU (2-2, 2-2 NEC)
Location: Brookville, N.Y. | Bethpage Federal Credit Union Stadium

How It Happened

  • After each team forced a three-and-out to start the day, Merrimack marched down the field for a touchdown. Esquivel led the drive, completing throws for first downs to junior Tyler Roberts and freshman to Jelani Mason. On the play that saw Mason move the sticks, LIU committed a 15-yard penalty that brought the Warriors into the red zone. Two plays later, Esquivel found redshirt-freshman Pat Conroy in the end zone for a TD reception

  • The Sharks proceeded to score 21 unanswered points from there. All three scoring plays came from within the two-yard line, including a pair of rushing scores to close the first quarter that gave the hosts a 14-6 edge. The Sharks then used an interception early in the second quarter to start their third scoring drive, which created a 21-6 advantage for LIU with 12:39 left in halftime
  • Merrimack’s defense created the opportunity for the team’s second touchdown of the first half. Sophomore defensive end Nicholas Lenon recovered a fumble, giving the Warriors the ball at LIU’s 41-yard line. Sophomore Darian Davis scampered 21 yards – the team’s longest play of the half – to put the ball on the one-yard line. After some lost yardage and on third-and-goal, Esquivel found Norcia for a leaping grab at the goal line. Merrimack’s second-year QB then rushed it in himself on fourth down, pulling the Warriors within nine points, 21-12

  • LIU tacked on a late field goal to make the score 24-12 at halftime
  • Merrimack had its chances to cut into its deficit in the third quarter, but failed to do so. The Warriors started a pair of drives in LIU territory, but could not score any points. Merrimack trotted out its field goal unit with less than eight minutes to play in the third, but the Sharks blocked the kick and returned it inside the Merrimack 10-yard line. The hosts then scored their fourth touchdown of the day, grabbing a 31-12 lead
  • Sophomore Shaka Moales keyed a drive late in the third quarter that led to points for Merrimack. The second-year running back took three carries for 26 yards – including a third-and-11 conversion – to move the ball into the red zone. On the team’s second play of the fourth quarter, Esquivel found Norcia for an 18-yard catch-and-run that crossed the goal line. Merrimack converted the two-point conversion as well, making it a 31-20 game

  • Merrimack got the ball back with 13:31 remaining, but punted it away after three unsuccessful plays. The score remained the same at the 8:44 mark, but on that drive the Warriors were able to move the ball into LIU territory. Facing a fourth-and-13 at the Sharks’ 44-yard line, a pass attempt was tipped at the line of scrimmage and intercepted. The Warriors did not threaten to score over the remainder of the game

Individual Highlights

  • Esquivel finished his day with career highs in completions (22), attempts (48), passing yards (203) and touchdowns (2)
  • Norcia also posted a career day, with personal bests in receptions (7) and yards (68). His two receiving touchdowns this year also ties his single-season career high
  • Merrimack rushed for 93 yards as a team. Davis led the team with a career-high 39 yards on 5.6 yards per rush
  • Conroy’s first-quarter touchdown was the first of his career
  • Junior Cam Tillman enjoyed a career day on defense, totaling a career-high seven tackles to lead the team. He added a 12-yard sack too
  • Holden was superb in the secondary, notching four of the team’s eight PBU’s on the day. The total was a career high and tied the single-game high for any player in NCAA FCS this season
  • Merrimack’s freshman defensive tackles had strong days: Brandon Roberts tied for the team lead in tackles (7) while Tyler Leavy led the Warriors with 2.5 tackles for loss
  • Moales added a 68-yard kickoff return, the team’s longest of the season

Notes & Numbers

  • Merrimack held LIU to 4-for-15 on third down (26.7 percent)
  • LIU scored on five of its six trips to the red zone while Merrimack converted on three of six trips to the red zone
  • Merrimack’s defense limited LIU to only 10 completions on 28 attempts (36.7 percent)
  • LIU outrushed Merrimack, 173-93
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