By Nichols College Sports Information
DUDLEY, Mass. – An interception and its ensuing run back with 1:21 remaining in the game secured Nichols College’s 31-19 victory over MIT in a New England Football Conference (NEFC) Boyd Division game on Saturday. The Bison improved to 2-2 on the year and 1-0 in division play while the Engineers’ ledger lowered to 0-3 overall and 0-1 in Boyd Division action.
MIT senior running back DeRon Brown led all rushers with 178 yards on 27 carries to go along with a pair of touchdowns. Nichols’ offensive production was led by 167 rushing yards from senior running back Robert Morris, who scored a touchdown on 29 carries. Senior receiver Anthony Pillari totaled 127 receiving yards on just nine catches, highlighted by a 60-yard reception in the second quarter.
After Lawrence Scott sacked MIT starting quarterback Kyle Johnson on third and goal at the Bison’s eight early in the first quarter, Peter Gilliland’s 27-yard field goal attempt clanged off the left upright.
Morris and Pillari then set up the Bison’s eight-play, 62-yard scoring drive, with Morris collecting his longest run of the day, a 45-yarder, and Pillari connecting with sophomore quarterback Sean Smith-Vaughn for an 18-yard pass to set up the Bison at the eight-yard line. MIT drove Nichols back to the eight before Dave Wyrick nailed a field goal, the Bison’s first attempt of the season.
MIT answered right back as Brian Doyle returned the kickoff 13 yards to set up sophomore quarterback Sean Kelly on a 28-yard pass play to Mike Fitzgerald. From the Nichols 43, Brown carried it the rest of the way on the next play to score his first of the day. The Bison’s Jonathon Merjuste blocked Gilliland’s kick, and MIT held its only lead of the day, 6-3, with 37 seconds left in the quarter.
Nichols broke open the game in the second quarter as it recorded a trio of scores, including two from senior receiver Mike Seiger. Smith-Vaughn found Seiger in the end zone on third and goal from the MIT two yard line to cap a 10-play, 59-yard drive that spanned just over five minutes at the start of the second quarter before junior safety Brandon Wallace intercepted the ball at the Bison 29 to bring the offense back on the field after just three plays.
Seiger again was Smith-Vaughn’s final target, this time snagging a 23-yard pass to finish off a nine-play, 69-yard drive which gave Nichols a 17-6 lead after another Wyrick kick.
The Bison stalled the Engineers at the Nichols 35 as Bill Hassett made the tackle on fourth and two before Smith-Vaughn connected with Pillari for a 60-yard catch to push Nichols up to first and goal at the MIT four yard line. Morris pushed his way through on the next play and Wyrick’s kick was good for a 24-6 Bison lead just 45 seconds later.
Brown escaped the Bison defense to sprint the ball 30 yards ahead on the Engineers’ next possession, and Kelly connected with Fitzgerald for a 37 yard pass to bring MIT to the one yard line with 30 seconds on the clock. Brown dove over the top of the pile for his second score of the day with 19 seconds left in the half to narrow the gap to 24-13.
Wallace had another interception in the third quarter and looked to set up another Nichols scoring drive, but the ensuing pass play from Smith-Vaughn was picked off by Corey Garvey, who returned it eight yards to midfield where the Engineers were forced to punt.
A Morris fumble set up MIT’s final scoring drive midway through the fourth quarter, after which Kelly again used Fitzgerald as a target for a 32-yard completion, driving to the Nichols two-yard line and then finding Nate Forbes for the score, a three-yarder, with 6:30 left in the game. MIT went for two, but the attempt failed, leaving the Engineers trailing, 24-19.
Wilbert White picked off Kelly on MIT’s final possession and returned it from the Engineers’ 48 for the Bison’s final score with 1:21 left to play. With Wyrick’s kick, the Bison finished the game, 31-19, after holding MIT to the Nichols 44 on its final possession.
For the Engineers, Kelly completed 16 of 27 attempts for 183 yards while Fitzgerald totaled 137 yards on seven catches. In addition to kicking duties, Gilliland led the Engineers with nine tackles (three solo) and 2.5 for a loss of five yards, while Will Gibson recorded 12 (four solo), and 1.5 for a loss of five yards and a sack.
Smith-Vaughn completed 16 of 27 passes for 192 yards, throwing two touchdowns and an interception. Seiger’s two touchdown receptions were accomplished on just three catches for 34 yards. Wyrick was perfect in kicking situations, all four of his PAT attempts and a field goal. Defensively, Hassett tied a career best with 13 tackles (six solo) and 2.5 for a loss of five yards, while Scott posted 12, (four solo), 1.5 for a loss of five yards and a sack. The Bison defense combined for 95 tackles, six sacks and three interceptions on the day.
Nichols travels to Endicott next Saturday for a noon Boyd Division game. MIT hosts UMass-Dartmouth at 1 p.m. for a conference tilt.