MIT Holds Off Nichols, 34-27, Clinches Winning Season

Sophomore Justin Wallace
Sophomore Justin Wallace

DUDLEY, Mass. – Trailing by three just before the half, MIT scored with eight seconds left in the first half and then scored the first 14 points of the second half before holding off Nichols College in the fourth quarter to take a 34-27 New England Football Conference victory. The win was the second straight win for the Engineers who clinched their first winning season since 1999. Sophomore Justin Wallace (Palatine, Ill.) rushed for 139 yards and a score in the victory.

MIT (5-3, 3-2 NEFC) was driving into Nichols territory on its first possession of the game, but sophomore Peter Williams (Portland, Ore.) was picked off by Kris Williams, giving the Bison the ball on their own two. Nichols turned the miscue into points as it drove the 98 yards in 11 plays, getting a pair of long pass completions on the drive, including one of 23 yards from Jacob Shoup to Mark Parker for the score with 4:27 left in the first.

Nichols (1-8, 1-4 NEFC) added a 41-yard Casey Lombardi field goal early in the second before MIT could get on the scoreboard. Wallace ran six times for 20 yards and Williams was 3-for-3 for 45 yards as the Engineers cut the Nichols lead to 10-7 on a one-yard plunge by sophomore Brad Goldsberry (Elizabeth, Colo.) five minutes into the second quarter. On its next possession MIT scored quickly to take the lead. Starting on the Nichols 42, Wallace broke off a 27-yard run down to set the Engineers up on the Nichols 15. On the next play Williams took it in himself, giving MIT its first lead of the day at 13-10 after the extra-point attempt was missed.

Nichols answered on its next drive, however, as Jonathan Winbush ran for 29 yards on seven carries on an 11-play, 58-yard drive. The MIT defense stopped Nichols twice from one-yard line, with both stops coming at the hands of junior Heath Gould (Las Vegas, Nev.). On fourth and goal Winbush was finally able to get into the end zone, putting Nichols back on top with two minutes left in the half.

MIT was not done though, as Goldsberry returned the ensuing kickoff 33 yards to the MIT 45. Williams was sacked for a five-yard loss on the first play of the drive, but a 12-yard completion to freshman Karson Ota (Katy, Texas) and a 23-yard rumble by Wallace gave the Engineers a first down at the Nichols 23. Williams then hit Goldsberry for a 15-yard gain to set up an eight-yard scoring toss to Ota with seven seconds left in the half, giving MIT a lead it would not relinquish.

Nichols had the fist scoring chance of the second half, but Lombardi's 20-yard field goal attempt was blocked by freshman Grant Gunnison (Anaheim, Calif.). MIT then capitalized on the momentum gained by the block, grinding out an 80-yard drive that saw the Engineers gain 59 of it on the ground, including a 21-yard dash by Wallace. Williams capped it off, finding Goldsberry for a 15-yard scoring strike to increase the MIT lead to 27-17.

After stopping Nichols on its next drive the Engineers struck again. Pinned on its own seven-yard line, Williams gave MIT some breathing room with an 11-yard run. Goldsberry then had three big plays in a row, hauling in a pass for 17 yards and then running for 12 and 15 yards to put the ball in Bison territory. A face mask penalty against Nichols and a 23-yard toss from Williams to freshman Seve Esparrago (St. Louis, Mo.) put the ball on the one, from where Wallace took it in for a 34-17 lead with 8:35 left in the game.

Nichols then staged a late comeback attempt, getting a 20-yard Lombardi field goal with 5:19 left before its defense stopped the Engineers on a three-and-out. Quarterback Pat Viencek then got the hot hand for the Bison on its next drive as he completed four out of five for 90 yards, hitting Joe Lambert from 33 yards out for a TD that cut the MIT to seven with 3:24 left.

After stopping MIT again, Nichols had one more chance and Viencek completed three straight passes for 35 yards to give the Bison a first down on the MIT 32. A false start set Nichols back five yards for what turned out to be the final play of the game. Viencek tossed one into the end zone, but junior Rhys Borchert (Pocatello, Idaho) knocked the pass down to preserve the win for the Engineers.

Wallace gained his 139 yards on 23 attempts, averaging 6.0 yards a carry, with Williams completing 14-of-22 for 171 yards and two scores. Nichols, which out gained MIT in total offense 469-386, was led by Viencek's passing as he hit on 20 of his 27 attempts for 252 yards and a score.

Goldsberry had his usual solid all-around effort, leading the MIT receivers with seven catches for 93 yards and ending his day with 181 all-purpose yards. David Gonzalez led Nichols with nine catches for 127 yards. On defense junior Jake Laux (Dousman, Wis.) led all players with 14 tackles. Peter Curto also reached double figures for Nichols, finishing with 10.

Both teams will be on the road next week to wrap up their respective seasons. MIT will travel to Endicott next Saturday for a 5:00 p.m. game while Nichols will be at Salve Regina for a Noon matchup.