NORTHFIELD, Vt. – Senior Charlie Schubert (Manchester, NH) caught a touchdown pass for the third straight game and sophomore Russ Massahos (Windham, NH) rushed 40 times for 148 yards Saturday, leading Plymouth State College to a 17-7 Freedom Football Conference victory over Norwich University.
The Panther defense turned in its third consecutive strong performance, holding the Cadets to 148 total yards on 61 plays (2.4 avg.). Norwich had only 18 yards at halftime, and picked up 80 of its 148 yards on one fourth-quarter drive.
The victory improves PSC to 2-1 overall and 1-0 in the FFC under first-year head coach Chris Rorke. Norwich falls to 2-2 overall and 0-2 in the FFC. The Panthers have captured nine straight against Norwich and 11 of 15 career meetings.
“Our defense is really dominating our opponents,” said Rorke. “(Defensive Coordinator) Kirk Jellerson has to be commended. It’s a lot of fun to watch our guys shut opponents down.”
PSC led only 3-0 at the half on a 35-yard field goal by senior Jesse Elderkin (Concord, NH), despite a 110-18 advantage in total yards. Rorke went to reserve quarterback Matt Simpson (Auburn, Maine) in the third quarter, who, in his collegiate debut, hit Schubert on an 83-scoring pass for his first career completion to put PSC ahead 10-0. Simpson finished the day 3-for-5 for 114 yards in place of sophomore Justin Connors (Andover, Mass.), who was 6-of-13 for 72 yards, one interception and seven sacks for the second straight week.
“I ran an up and out pattern,” said Schubert, “and Matt was able to get the ball upfield to me. We needed a big play, and fortunately I was able to provide it. Matt has done very well in practice, and when we needed him, he stepped up today.”
“I was very nervous, this being my first college game ever,” said Simpson. “Charlie is a big-time player; I knew if I could get him the ball, he’d make things happen.”
The Panthers appeared to put the game away early in the fourth quarter when Simpson and Massahos led PSC on another scoring drive. Massahos did much of the damage, but it was senior FB Dan DeMuth (LeMars, Iowa) who scored his first TD of the season from one yard out with 12:32 remaining to make it 17-0.
“There was a sense of urgency with our offense today,” said Massahos. “We’ve been working hard in practice to get better. We knew our defense has been keeping us in games, and we wanted to take the pressure off them. I’m usually happy with 20-25 carries, but I’ll do whatever the coach wants. I don’t mind carrying the load for the team. Today our line did a nice job of opening holes for me.”
The Cadets would not quit, however. Junior QB Eric Lewandowski (Bristol, CT) led Norwich on a 10-play, 80-yard drive that was capped by a six-yard pass play for a TD to junior Ryan Squires (Guilford, VT) with 8:40 remaining. Norwich executed a successful on-side kick that kept the momentum in its favor, but PSC senior Colt Meredith (Saugus, Mass.) intercepted Lewandowski twice in the final seven minutes to preserve the victory.
PSC’s defense, which has allowed 178 yards per game over the first three weeks, was led by the linebacking duo of sophomore Chris Kelliher (Goffstown, NH) and senior Sans Milbury (Danvers, Mass.). Kelliher led the team in tackles for the second straight week with 13, including three sacks, while Milbury made 11 tackles, four in the Norwich backfield.
“We are playing great defense as a team,” said Kelliher. “Someone always seems to step up with a big play.”
Plymouth State returns home to Currier Field for FFC encounters the next three weeks, beginning next Saturday (Oct. 2) vs. Western Connecticut (12:00 p.m.).