MIT Drops Close, 31-28, Decision at WPI

Senior Seve Esparrago
Senior Seve Esparrago

WORCESTER, Mass. – Trailing by three points with a little more than a minute to play, MIT put together a late drive that came up just short when WPI held the Scarlet and Grey on a fourth-and one play with 21 seconds left to hold on for a 31-28 victory in the season opener for both teams. It was the first time the two schools have met on the gridiron since the 2002 season. 

WPI jumped out to an early lead in the first quarter when the Engineers halted MIT's first two drives of the night near midfield and then turned the stops into scores with two scoring drives of their own. WPI struck first with a 22-yard pass from junior Dan Eckler (Stoughton, Mass.) to junior Joe Igoe (Framingham, Mass.) at the 7:08 mark and then picked up a five-yard run from Eckler with two seconds left in the first quarter to take the 14-0 lead.

MIT jumped back into it at the start of the second quarter when senior Seve Esparrago (St. Louis, Mo.) made a great catch in the back of the end zone of a pass from senior Danny Callahan (Hinsdale, Ill.). MIT's defense held on the next WPI drive, forcing a punting situation. The snap on the punt was over the punters head, with the play ending up giving MIT the ball on the WPI eight-yard line. From there Callahan tossed a two-yard scoring strike to junior Harris Stolzenberg (Weston, Fla.) to knot the score at 14-all with 8:14 left. 

The two teams then traded a pair of TDs, with WPI getting a two-yard scoring run from sophomore Eric Razanousky (Stuyvesant, N.Y.) before Callahan struck for his third scoring pass of the night, this one a 50-yarder to senior Karson Ota (Katy, Texas) with 1:14 left in the half. WPI came back before the half, however, taking the lead into the locker room on a 15-yard pass from Eckler to junior Brandon Eccher (Franklin, Mass.) in the corner of the end zone.

In the third quarter junior Anthony Emberley (Longmont, Colo.) hit Eckler from behind, sacking him and forcing a fumble that junior Andrew Wrenn (Lake Oswego, Ore.) recovered at the MIT 45. Nine plays later freshman Adis Ojeda (Springfield, Va.) picked up his first career TD in an MIT uniform with an 11-yard scamper at the 7:43 mark, tying the game for a third time.

It stayed that way until five minutes into the fourth when junior Blaine Bursey (Middleburg, Fla.) connected from 26 yards out on a field goal to put WPI back on top. MIT came back and drove deep into WPI territory, but was turned away when WPI senior Eric Lacroix (Methuen, Mass.) intercepted Callahan. MIT had another chance late, getting the ball back with 1:01 to go on its own 28. Callahan led the Engineers down to the WPI 36, but his pass was on fourth-and-one was incomplete, snuffing out the last hopes for the Cardinal and Grey.

Callahan finished with 20-for-31 night for 245 yards and three scores in his first start at quarterback for MIT. Ota grabbed five of the passes for 102 yards, with Esparrago leading the team with seven catches, good for 69 yards. Ojeda gained 65 yards on the ground to lead the MIT rushing attack. For WPI, senior Zach Grasis (East Brookfield, Mass.) led all rushers with 100 yards on 29 carries. Eckler hit 18 passes on 23 attempts for 197 yards, with Eccher and sophomore Mitch Celaj (Worcester, Mass.) each making six catches.

Junior Tremaan Robbins (Long Beach, Calif.) led MIT with nine tackles, with Emberley and senior Alex Noakes (Watkinsville, Ga.) each recording a sack and freshman Riley Quinn (San Carlos, Calif.) getting an interception in his first collegiate outing. Junior Brian Murtagh (Wayland, Mass.) led WPI with 10 tackles. 

MIT will play again next Saturday at Becker College in a 12:00 p.m. contest, while WPI will play at Worcester State on Friday at 7:00 p.m.