DUDLEY, Mass. - The Nichols College football team snapped a 17-game losing streak with a 26-16 win over UMass Dartmouth in New England Football Conference (NEFC) action Saturday afternoon at Vendetti Field.
The win was the first as a head coach for Kevin Loney and the first for the Bison since a 17-14 triumph over MIT on October 30, 2010. The Bison racked up a season-high 361 yards of total offense and forced four turnovers – highlighted by three interceptions from sophomore Wesley Williams (Royal Palm Beach, Fla.), which is the second-highest single game total in program history.
Junior Pat Viencek (Bernardston, Mass.) became the first Bison to throw for 300 yards in nearly three years, finishing 18-of-29 for 300 yards and three touchdowns. Nichols last 300-yard passer was Sean Smith-Vaughn, who lit up Plymouth State for 361 in a loss on October 17, 2009.
Four different receivers went over 50 yards for the Bison (1-6, 1-3 NEFC), led by junior Joe Lambert (New Haven, Conn.), who caught six passes for 78 yards and one touchdown, a 36-yard pass that gave Nichols a 19-10 lead right before halftime. Junior Dylan Rimsky (Denville, N.J.) hauled in a 67-yard touchdown pass and sophomore Felipe Njeim (Stoughton, Mass.) scampered 60 yards for a score on his only reception of the afternoon, giving the Bison four touchdown passes of 60-or-more yards this season. Classmate Mark Parker (Natick, Mass.) also caught six passes for a total of 55 yards.
Senior captain Peter Curto (Braintree, Mass.) notched a team-high 13 tackles (seven solo) – including 1.5 for loss – while sophomore Julon McCoy (Gardner, Mass.) recorded seven tackles (three TFL). Overall, the defense sacked UMass Dartmouth quarterbacks five times, highlighted by 1.5 sacks from senior captain Joe Bresse (Foxboro, Mass.). Sophomore Kris Williams (East Hartford, Conn.) added a fourth interception while a total of 10 Bison recorded at least two solo tackles and four notched one pass breakup.
"Through thick and thin the last two years, our kids continued to come out and battle," said Loney. "There have been a lot of close calls, but the kids came out today and played great football. We scored first, then went down, but we came right back and kept swinging. This is a great feeling. I'm proud of these guys."
Nichols opened the game with a 12-play, 75-yard drive that sophomore Jonathan Winbush (Boston, Mass.) capped with a two-yard touchdown run to give the Bison an early 6-0 advantage (missed PAT). The Corsairs (1-6, 1-3 NEFC) answered with a 19-yard touchdown pass from sophomore Liam Cosgrove (Plymouth, Mass.) to senior Brendan McNeish (Springfield, Mass.) and a 44-yard field goal by senior Edgar Osols (Summit, N.J.) to take a 10-6 lead at the end of one.
Starting at their own eight-yard line, the Bison took a 12-10 lead (blocked PAT) on Rimsky's fourth touchdown reception of the season with 5:14 left in the second quarter. Following a defensive stop, Nichols drove 68 yards in eight plays before Lambert's team-leading fifth touchdown grab – a 36-yard connection with Viencek – sent the Bison to the lock room with a 19-10 lead.
Njeim scored the only touchdown of the third quarter to increase the Nichols lead to 26-10. In the fourth, Williams picked off a pair of passes by Cosgrove, and the defense stopped the Corsairs on fourth down late in the contest to help seal the win. A late UMD touchdown pass from freshman Mario Rigali (Agawam, Mass.) to junior Jordan Guyton (Canton, Mass.) capped the scoring with 14 ticks left on the clock.
"We let them make too many big plays," said UMass Dartmouth head coach Mark Robichaud. "We struggled again offensively, we had our best game of the year on the ground, but we couldn't maintain drives. Overall, we didn't play well."
The Corsairs rushed for 107 yards, led by Guyton's 50, but completed less than 50 percent of their pass attempts (15-of-39, 38.5 pct.) and were a combined 8-of-26 on third and fourth down (30.8 pct.). Cosgrove finished the afternoon 8-of-26 for 79 yards with one touchdown and four picks. Junior Joe Teixera (Seekonk, Mass.) racked up a team-high 10 tackles (six solo).
Nichols returns to action next Saturday with a 1 p.m. contest at Curry. The Corsairs host Endicott next Saturday at noon.