BANGOR, Maine – Trailing by three points with less than a minute to play, MIT got a game tying 38-yard field goal as time expired in regulation from sophomore Tucker Cheyne (Avon, Conn.), and then a spectacular TD catch by junior Seve Esparrago (St. Louis, Mo.) in overtime to pull out a thrilling, 27-20, win against host Husson University in the first round of the 2014 NCAA Division III Football Tournament. MIT, ranked No. 24 in this week's AFCA poll, kept its perfect season alive and moves to 10-0 while Husson saw its season end at 8-2.
With MIT ahead 17-14 in the fourth quarter, Husson put together an impressive 14-play drive that covered 84 yards to retake the lead and gain late momentum. With 5:37 left, Deon Wiggins made a spectacular catch of Joe Seccareccia's pass from 14 yards out, but sophomore Matt Iovino (Sayville, N.Y.) blocked the extra-point attempt, making it a 20-17 Eagles lead.
MIT drove into Husson territory, but the Engineers coughed up the ball, with Husson recovering on its own 36. The Eagles worked on running down the clock, gaining the MIT 33 before the Engineers stopped them on a fourth and six when senior Cameron Wagar (West Richland, Wash.) dropped Ellis Throckmorton after a three-yard gain on a fake punt attempt.
With just 48 seconds to work with and no timeouts, senior Peter Williams (Portland, Ore.) hit senior Brad Goldsberry (Elizabeth, Colo.) with a 29-yard pass to get into Husson territory. An unsportsmanlike penalty on the Eagles took the ball down to the 21, but the Engineers could get no closer and as time was winding down the MIT field goal unit rushed onto the field and Cheyne's kick split the uprights to send the game into overtime.
MIT was on offense first in overtime, picking up a first down at the Husson 13-yard line. On the next play Williams scrambled to his right and lofted a pass into the end zone that Esparrago made a diving catch on to put the Engineers on top. Husson also picked up a first down on its possession, getting to the MIT 15. Facing a third and seven, Seccareccia took it himself, but sophomore Anthony Emberley (Longmont, Colo.) stopped him three yards short. On fourth down Seccareccia tried to get a pass to Josiah Hartley, but it fell incomplete, moving the Engineers into the next round of the playoffs.
It did not take long for points to be put on the board at the beginning of the game, with a pair of touchdowns scored before two minutes were gone. MIT won the toss and opened the game on offense, but on the third play Williams was intercepted by Kenny Sweet, who returned it 47 yards for a score. The Engineers had an immediate answer on their next offensive play when senior Justin Wallace (Palatine, Ill.) broke free from the Husson defense and scampered 72 yards down the right sideline for the game tying score.
Both teams then traded blows for most of the rest of the first half, with both offenses threating but unable to cash in for points. Wagar had a hand in stopping one drive, dragging down John Smith for a loss late in the first quarter before sophomore Andrew Wrenn (Lake Oswego, Ore.) and senior Kyle Veldman (Phoenix, Ariz.) recorded a sack to halt the drive.
Husson threatened at the start of the third quarter when an Eagle punt hit off an MIT player and was recovered by Husson on the MIT 23. The Engineers held, however, and two drives later methodically drove down the field and completed a nine-play, 87-yard drive with a six-yard scoring pass from Williams to Goldsberry that gave MIT its first lead of the game, 17-14, with 3:54 left in the quarter, setting up the wild finish.
MIT and Husson put up almost identical numbers in total offense, with the Engineers gaining 459 to 452 for the Eagles. Smith had a big day on the ground for Husson, gaining 264 yards on 52 carries. Wallace led MIT with 144 yards and the one score, while Williams completed 20-of-29 attempts for a season-high 291 yards and two scores. Esparrago made seven catches for 128 yards and the TD in overtime, with Goldsberry grabbing six passes for 58 yards. Seccareccia hit on 10-of-23 for 140 yards and two scores, with Hartley and Wiggins each making three catches.
On defense Wagar was all over the field for the Engineers, recording 21 tackles and making the interception. Stephan Dance and Throckmorton led Husson with 12 tackles each.
MIT will move on to take on No. 4 Wesley College in Dover, Delaware next Saturday, November 29. Kickoff time for the contest will be announced later.