Courtesy Norwich Sports Information
NORTHFIELD – The Norwich University football team dropped a 13-9 heart breaker in the first “Little Army-Navy Game” vs. the United States Coast Guard Academy since 2005 on Saturday afternoon on Sabine Field at Haynes Family Stadium.
Sophomore running back Steve Cuqua (Walpole, Mass.) had 127 yards rushing and the NU defense forced four turnovers, but one big play early in the fourth quarter doomed the Cadets and spoiled their hopes of a Homecoming Weekend victory.
With the score knotted 6-6 just over 2:30 into the fourth quarter, Coast Guard (3-1, 1-0 NEWMAC) quarterback Ethan Goldcamp found Cam Cecchini on a screen pass that the junior running back took 73 yards all the way to the end zone to give the Bears their first lead of the game and the decisive score.
Freshman kicker Clyde Tamburro (Elizabethtown, Pa.) went 3-for-4 on field goals, including knocking one home from 32 yards out with 5:34 left to cut the deficit to 13-9. However, that’s as close as Norwich (0-4, 0-1 NEWMAC) would get as the Bears made a stop on fourth and 10 on the Cadets’ last possession to force a turnover on downs.
Sophomore quarterback Matthew Chaffee (Middletown, N.Y.) made his first collegiate start, throwing for 152 yards and rushing for another 45 on the ground. Freshman wide receiver Tristan Weathers (Sewaren, N.J.) went over 100 yards receiving for the second straight week, collecting a career-high nine balls for 106 yards through the air.
Norwich dominated the first half, limiting Coast Guard to just 52 yards of total offense in the opening 30 minutes. Norwich on the other hand gained 190 yards, highlighted by a 52-yard run by Cuqua that gave the Cadets a first and goal at the one. However, NU was unable to punch the ball over the goal line and had to settle for the field goal.
Tamburro connected from 29 yards out for his second field goal of the game and extended the lead to 6-0 after he hit a career-long, 45-yard field goal with 4:11 left in the first quarter to strike first blood.
Coast Guard regrouped at halftime and came out of the locker room, guns blazing on offense. The Bears went to a hurry-up and churned yardage left and right to march 69 yards on 13 plays resulting in a 23-yard Cole Austin field goal to get on the board.
Coast Guard added another field goal with 4:21 left in the third quarter as Austin nailed another field goal, this time from 33 yards out to tie the score at 6-6.
Norwich was led defensively by senior linebacker Tyler Jones (Hazlet, N.J.), who had nine tackles and a pass breakup. Senior Nick Ferrara (Collingswood, N.J.) posted eight tackles, including two for loss. Senior cornerback Austin Roberts (East Bridgewater, Mass.) added eight tackles along with an interception and a pass breakup.
Saturday’s game marked the 72nd all-time meeting between Norwich and Coast Guard on the gridiron. The historic rivalry dates all the way back to 1929 when NU defeated Coast Guard 6-0. The Bears improved to 39-32-1 in the series and retained the coveted Mug Trophy for the second straight meeting. Coast Guard won the last meeting in 2005 before the annual series ended after the Freedom Football Conference dissolved.
Saturday’s game marked both team’s inaugural game in the brand-new New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC), which features many of the old Freedom Football Conference members.
Norwich will try again for its first win of 2017 when it travels to face Springfield College in Massachusetts on Saturday, Sept. 30 at noon.