Senior Nick Connell rushes for career-high 188 yards & scores game-winning touchdown with 11 seconds remaining (Photo by Matland PHOTO)
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (November 12, 2016) – Senior running back Nick Connell (East Marion, N.Y.) scored the go-ahead touchdown from three yards out with 11 seconds remaining in regulation as Western New England University completed its second consecutive undefeated regular season with a 36-29 victory over the United States Coast Guard Academy this afternoon in New England Football Conference (NEFC) action at Golden Bear Stadium.
• Connell led the Western New England offense for the second straight week, carying the ball 30 times for a career-high 188 yards and two touchdowns.
• Junior wide receiver Mark Dietrich (Cheshire, Conn.) recorded six receptions for a team-high 97 yards.
• Senior cornerback Obi Etuka (Middletown, Conn.) finished with a team-high ten tackles (0.5 for loss), one interception and one pass breakup. Etuka was one of five Golden Bears to pick off Coast Guard senior quarterback Derek Victory (Weston, Fla.).
• Junior Darius Adams (Nassau, Bahamas) and sophomore Chip Crowley (San Marino, Calif.) were Victory's primary targets, combining for 11 catches, 216 yards and one touchdown.
• Senior linebacker Fred McClimans (Flower Mound, Tex.) paced the Coast Guard defense with a game and career-high 15 tackles.
• After sophomore bear Kurtis Jolicoeur (Windham, N.H.) intercepted Victory's second pass attempt, Western New England put together a six-play, 50-yard touchdown drive that culminated in a seven-yard rush by senior wing Terrence N'Dabian (Stratford, Conn.).
• Coast Guard's next possession also resulted in a turnover, as senior Isaiah Berrios Smith (Wallkill, N.Y.) picked off Victory at the Western New England 30-yard line. Seven plays later, junior quarterback Anthony Service (Lake Ronkonkoma, N.Y.) found the end zone on an 18-yard run as the Golden Bears opened up a 13-0 lead just six minutes into the contest.
• Coast Guard responded with a six-play, 69-yard drive, scoring on a 21-yard pass from Victory to freshman wide receiver Liam Middleton (Dover, N.H.).
• Western New England marched all the way down to Coast Guard's four-yard line on its next possession, but the Golden Bears were unable to punch it in as senior kicker Kevin Patterson (Houston, Tex.) connected on a 26-yard field goal to make the score 16-7.
• Western New England led by just two (16-14) after one quarter, as Coast Guard sophomore Jeff Porter (West Newbury, Mass.) scored on a two-yard touchdown run on the final play of the opening period.
• Junior running back Dante Aiken's (Brooklyn, N.Y.) 14-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter represented the last score of the half, as the Golden Bears took a 23-14 lead into the break.
• After neither team put points on the board in the third quarter, Connell extended Western New England's lead to 15 (29-14) with a three-yard touchdown run early in the fourth. The Golden Bears were given a short field to work with, as junior Kevin McLaughlin (Colorado Springs, Colo.) picked off Victory at the Coast Guard 36-yard line and returned it seven yards.
• Coast Guard's late rally began with 7:24 remaining in the contest and the Bears still trailing by 15. Victory engineered a six-play, 90-yard scoring drive, which featured completions of 36 and 44 yards, to cut the visitors deficit to eight (29-21). The senior quarterback capped the drive with a one-yard touchdown run.
• Coast Guard successfully executed an on-side kick to get the ball right back, and Victory connected with Adams on a 53-yard touchdown on the first play of the possession to bring the Bears to within two (29-27). Victory found senior Kyle Jackson (Lincoln, R.I.) on the ensuing two-point conversion attempt as Coast Guard tied the score with 4:32 remaining.
• Western New England's game-winning drive featured 12 rushes without a single pass, as Connell carried the ball eight times for 51 yards. His final run, which resulted in a three-yard touchdown, proved to be the difference as the Golden Bears thwarted Coast Guard's upset bid.
• Connell's 188-yard performance comes a week after he established career-highs in carries (30), yards (170) and touchdowns (four) in Western New England's 41-22, NEFC-title clinching victory at Salve Regina. The senior, who went over the 1000-yard mark with today's effort (1061), averaged 6.3 yards on his 30 carries. Connell has topped the 100-yard mark in four of the last five games, while rushing for nine touchdowns during the same stretch.
• Western New England outgained Coast Guard 551-439. The Golden Bears picked up a season-high 364 yards on the ground and 187 through the air.
• Western New England was able to win despite struggling in third down situations, as the Golden Bears converted on just 1-of-12 third down plays (8%).
• Today's contest represented the final NEFC game, with Western New England and the majority of the NEFC squads set to join the Commonwealth Coast Conference for football next fall.
Western New England (10-0, 7-0 NEFC) will find out its opponent for the first round of the NCAA Tournament tomorrow night at 6 p.m. during the NCAA Selection Show, which airs live on NCAA.com at 6 p.m. Coast Guard's season comes to a close at 3-7 (2-5 NEFC).