PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Sophomore Jeff Parker (Norwich, NY) rushed for 112 yards and two touchdowns Saturday to lead Plymouth State College to a 20-17 Freedom Football Conference victory over Norwich University in the annual Homecoming affair at Currier Field.
Parker, who has 235 yards and four touchdowns in the last two weeks, went into the end zone with his second TD of the afternoon with 5:33 remaining in the fourth quarter as the Panthers overcame a 17-14 deficit. His game-winning score capped a 55-yard, 10–play drive following a go-ahead field goal by Norwich’s Andy Wheeler (Louisville, KY).
The Cadets had two final attempts at tying the game in the closing moments. Sophomore QB Eric Lewandoski (Bristol, CT) saw his fourth down pass with 3:38 remaining fall incomplete, then after a Panther fumble at the PSC 39-yard line with 1:39 left, Lewandoski was picked off at the PSC 16 by PSC DB John McLaughlin (East Bridgewater, MA), his second interception of the day.
“I had two guys on my side, and they ran the same play as they had earlier on my first interception,” said McLaughlin, who also had two tackles and one break-up. “I had a beat on my guy, and read the play the whole time.”
The loss offset an outstanding performance by Norwich tailback Zach Dyer (Mechanicsville, NY). He carried 21 times for 157 yards and one touchdown, and caught two passes for 33 yards. He led a Norwich offense the racked up 368 yards against the PSC defense, while PSC gained 294. Last year, the Panthers outgained the Cadets, 506-113.
“They ran the ball extremely well today,” said McLaughlin, “and kind of caught us off guard.”
After Parker gave PSC a 7-0 lead with a two-yard run in the first quarter, Lewandoski answered with a two-yard run of his own three minutes later. Norwich took a 14-7 lead into the locker room on a 42-yard run by Dyer with 20 seconds left in the second quarter.
PSC evened the score at 14-14 with 6:05 left in the third quarter on a seven-yard burst by senior Matt Botz (West Islip, NY), setting up the fourth quarter theatrics.
With the score tied 14-14, Norwich had a golden opportunity to take a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter. PSC attempted a fake punt on fourth down at its own 29 yard line with 11:13 remaining, but lost seven yards to give Norwich a first and 10 at the PSC 22. That set up to go-ahead field goal by Wheeler.
“We’ve had success with that play this year,” said Kemp. “If we make that play, I look like a hero. If we miss it, I look like a goat. The only time we’ve had a problem is when our up-backs miss their blocks. We’re thin with experience, so we have to go with some younger players on special teams in order to give our regulars some rest.”
The Panthers, 3-0 overall and 1-0 in the FFC, plays their next three on the road, beginning next Saturday at Western Connecticut (1:30 p.m.). Norwich, 2-2 overall and 0-2 in the FFC, returns home Saturday to host Coast Guard (1:30 p.m.).