NEWPORT, R.I. – Freshman Mark Moore (Hattiesburg, Miss.) kicked a program record 49-yard field goal as time expired to give the Salve Regina University football team a 25-22 win over Union College during its season opener at Gaudet Field on Saturday afternoon. The win was Salve Regina's first-ever victory over Union College.
Offensively, the Seahawks were paced by a fantastic performance from sophomore running back Richie Edwards (Trumbull, Conn.) who compiled 230 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Quarterback Jimmy Connelly (Berlin, Conn.) completed 15-of-25 attempts for 209 yards, while senior Patrick Keenan (North Smithfield, R.I.), senior Trey Scales (Boston, Mass.), and Edwards each caught four passes on the day. Defensively, A.J. Albert (Franklin Park, N.J.) led all players with 14 tackles, while corner Matt Petersen (Bristol, Conn.) broke up a game-high four passes. Junior Maxwell Shubert (West Chester, Pa.) and senior Jeff Bartek (North Haven, Conn.) each had an interception to help spark the Seahawks to victory.
The Dutchmen offense was led by quarterback Drew Connolly (Foxboro, Mass.) who completed 15-of-29 passes for 247 yards and a touchdown through the air, while also rushing for 45 yards and a touchdown. Wide receiver Chase Richey (Winter Park, Fla.) gave Salve Regina's secondary fits, leading all players with five receptions for 104 yards and a touchdown. Fellow wide-out Justin Gallo (Troy, N.Y.) also had a strong game, reeling-in three passes for 96 yards, while freshman Darnel Thomas (West Caldwell, N.J.) had 45 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries in the loss.
The first half was a defensive battle, with the Seahawks finally breaking through on the scoreboard first with a 26-yard field goal by junior Brendan Deasy (Quincy, Mass.) with 13:40 left to play in the second quarter.
Salve Regina held on to the lead until late in the first half when Connolly hit Richey down the seam with a strike and looked-on as the receiver broke away for a long 73-yard touchdown with just 1:08 left in the second quarter.
After the Seahawks were unable to muster anything on their final drive of the half, the two teams headed to the locker room with the Dutchmen clinging to a 7-3 lead.
In the third quarter, the Seahawks appeared destined for the end zone, driving down the field for 66 yards on just seven plays, including six carries by Edwards. However, Union sophomore Bill Meile (Ramsey, N.J.) forced a crucial fumble and teammate Jafar Johnson (Albany, N.Y.) pounced on the loose ball to complete the turnover.
On Union's next play from scrimmage, Connolly found Justin Gallo open deep, connecting for a 74-yard reception down to the Salve Regina 17-yard line. Four plays later, Thomas found the end zone from two yards out to extend the Dutchmen lead to 14-3 with just 47 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Refusing to go away, the Seahawks marched down field on their following drive, going 72 yards on nine plays for their first touchdown of the game. Connelly completed three passes for 60 yards on the drive, including a 45-yard connection with freshman Patrick Barefield (Phoenix, Ariz.) to set up a four-yard touchdown run by Rob LaRiviere-Tougas (Easthampton, Mass.). After a failed two-point conversion, the Union lead was 14-9.
The Seahawks defense held for a quick three-and-out on Union's next possession, getting the ball back in the hands of the Salve Regina offense.
The Seahawks responded with a long sustained drive, going 80 yards on 11 plays over 5:32. Edwards was the workhorse, gaining 28 yards on seven carries during the drive including a seven-yard touchdown run to the right side to give Salve Regina the lead for the first time since early in the first quarter.
After another failed two-point conversion, the Seahawks kicked the ball back to Union with just 4:00 minutes remaining and SRU holding a slight 15-14 edge.
With the Dutchmen facing a fourth-and four, Salve Regina defensive back Matthew Markese (West Hartford, Conn.) made a huge play to pick off a pass at the Union-48 and give the Seahawks the ball in enemy territory.
Edwards responded by taking the first play from scrimmage 48 yards to pay dirt, and after the extra point, the Seahawks held a 22-14 lead with only 2:30 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Dutchmen made the most of their final drive, as Connolly passed for 35 yards to get his team to the Salve Regina 27-yard line with time running out. On the next play, Connolly was flushed out of the pocket, and found daylight right up the middle of the field, scampering for a 27-yard touchdown run to cut the Seahawk lead to 22-20 with only 48 seconds left in the game. The Dutchmen successfully converted the two-point conversion on a rush to left side by Thomas, tying the score at 22-all and setting up a dramatic finish.
The Seahawks received a huge break when the ensuing kickoff by the Dutchmen sailed out of bounds, giving Salve Regina possession at their own 40-yard line. After a pass-interference call moved the ball to the Union 45 yard line, Connelly got his team in position for a game-winning field goal with a five-yard pass to Edwards and a eight-yard hook-up with Scales.
It was all up to freshman kicker Mark Moore, who lined up for what would be the longest field goal in program history and promptly split the uprights with a game-winning 49-yard field goal as time expired to give the Seahawks a dramatic 25-22 victory on opening day.
The Seahawks will return to action next Saturday at Montclair State starting at noon.