SCSU football team loses to Merrimack College, 21-14
Edgar Ayala – Sports Writer
Leading by a touchdown and possession of the football with less than three minutes in regulation, Southern Connecticut couldn’t manage to hold off Merrimack College as the Owls lost 21-14 last Saturday afternoon on Senior Day.
Two minutes with two seconds is all it took for the Warriors to spoil the Owls’ season finale home game. In that span, the Warriors scored twice off a blocked punt and interception, rallying their way back from the Owls then 14-7 lead.
“We knew we had to throw the ball,” said coach Tom Godek after the Warriors tied the game 14-14. “It appeared we were ready to take that drive, and it was just a field goal to win. That’s what we were looking to do there, but unfortunately we came up short.”
The loss now drops Southern to 3-7 overall, while Merrimack improved to 6-4 on the season. The defeat puts the Owls at No. 8 in the Northeast-10 Conference, and will play No. 7 AIC in the NE-10 Championship Weekend this Saturday in Springfield, Mass.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Owls got on the scoreboard early in the second quarter when quarterback Robert Nittolo connected with Devante Jenkins in the air for an eight-yard touchdown. In 10 games, Jenkins has now managed to tally up 14 touchdowns and 800 yards in the junior’s debut season for the Owls.
Nittolo, on the other hand, finished the game 18-of-36 for 182 yards with a passing and rushing touchdown. He ended the season with 1,858 yards and 18 touchdowns as a redshirt freshman.
Four minutes after Southern was leading 7-0, Merrimack tied the game up when Nick Davis ran down the middle for a seven-yard touchdown.
The game remained 7-7 heading into halftime, and Nittolo said the team needed to keep executing in order to break the deadlock to start the third quarter.
“As a quarterback I got to make good decisions, we got to block guys, then we got to get the run game going,” said Nittolo. “We were just unfortunate not to get everything we wanted.”
A scoreless quarter in the third frame resulted in a big fourth quarter ending.
Southern regained the lead midway through the final quarter. The Warriors’ Jamie Holbrook fumbled the ball at the 32-yard line, and it took six plays for Nittolo to then rush for his 2-yard touchdown.
But the closing minutes of the game was a nightmare for Southern. After the Warriors recovered the ball off the blocked punt, quarterback Devin O’Reilly found Davis for an 11-yarder to tie the game with 2:35 left in the clock.
The Owls’ next possession with the football resulted Nittolo to throw an interception just under the two-minute mark. Merrimack brought the game to bed, and saw Derrick Villard with the game-winning five-yard touchdown run with 33 seconds left in regulation.
With the regular season out the way, Nittolo noted the team need to find ways to finish off close games. He added that despite the close encounters they faced this season, he is proud of the effort his teammates gave all year round.
Now as the Owls travel to Massachusetts to play American International College on Saturday, Coach Godek had one thing to say.
“We’re looking forward to the last game,” said Godek. “The program really needs to finish at a high note, so we want to finish the [game against AIC] with a W.”
Photo Credit: Tyler Korponai – Photo Editor