EWING, N.J. – The Morrisville State College football team's three-game win streak came to an end Saturday afternoon, as host The College of New Jersey Lions edged the Mustangs 21-20 in New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) action in Ewing, New Jersey.
The loss drops the Mustangs to an 3-3 overall record, 2-1 in conference action, while TCNJ picks up their fourth straight victory to improve to 4-2, 3-0 in conference play.
The contest featured the NJAC's best defense going against the conference's best offensive team, and in the end it was the Lions defense that won out, halting Morrisville State's final drive attempt on fourth down to claim the win.
Morrisville State collected 431-yards total offense on the day, 250 in the running game behind a 158-yard rushing performance by running back Cristian Pena (Ridgewood, N.Y.). Lemar Johnson (Ossining, N.Y.) added 70 on 16 attempts for two scores, while going 26-for-40 in the passing game for 181 yards.
Anthony Gray (Smallwood, N.Y.) led the receiving corps with 82 yards on 12 catches, while Josh Powell (Yonkers, N.Y.) added 56 yards on seven receptions.
Wally Stephens (Kingston, N.Y.) led the defense efforts for the Mustangs, posting a collegiate high nine total tackles, including four solo stops and one and a half tackles for a loss of five yards, while four teammates posted five apiece.
Chris Spellman went 11-for-22 for the Lions for 190 yards and three passing scores, as TCNJ edged Morrisville State by nine yards in the passing game.
Brad Young led all Lion ball carriers netting 60 yards on 13 carries, while teammate Victor Scalici added 53 yards on 15 attempts.
Nick Bricker led all defensemen and TCNJ with 19 total tackles, while Ryan Lowe added 15.
After the Mustangs forced a three and out on the Lions opening drive, they put together a series that came to a stop on TCNJ's three yard line midway through the quarter. Morrisville State lined up for a field goal attempt, but the conference's leading and stingy defense (ranked 12th nationally) kept the Mustangs at length, blocking the 20 yard field goal attempt to take over the ball on their own seven.
Morrisville State's defense again limited the Lions to just three plays before forcing a punt, and rebounded from the missed field goal with an eight play, 53-yard drive that was capped off by a 13-yard rushing score by Johnson for the 7-0 Mustang lead with 3:03 to go in the opening quarter.
The Lions used an interception late in the opening quarter in Mustang territory to set up a 43-yard scoring drive just three plays later, as Spellman found Ryan Baranowsky on the 27-yard pass play to even the contest at seven.
Pinned deep in their own territory, Morrisville State took advantage of Pena's ability to move the ball and drove it downfield, setting up a one-yard scoring run by Johnson to complete the 93-yard, 11-play drive for the 14-7 advantage.
Midway through the second quarter, Morrisville State's offense put together a drive that consumed nearly five minutes of the clock and 84 yards down to the TCNJ two-yard line, but on fourth and goal, Bricker forced Johnson out of the pocket and tackled him for a loss of a yard to turn the ball over on downs with 4:45 to go before half.
On the ensuing Lions' drive, Spellman completed a series of passes and used the ability of Scalici to get out to midfield, before launching a ball to Jeff Mattonelli who snatched the ball away from the Mustang defense in the endzone for a 51-yard completion and tying score with just seconds remaining on the clock before the half.
Morrisville State regained the lead midway through the third quarter as Johnson completed two straight passes to Gray for a combined 22 yard gain into TCNJ territory, and then took to the ground to cap off the 50 yard drive with a three yard run by Edwin Soto (Liberty, N.Y.) for the go ahead 20-14 Mustang lead.
Morrisville State's defense held TCNJ scoreless for the remainder of the third quarter, but with 10:09 left in the contest, the Lions' were able to muster the go ahead tally, as Spellman hit Fred Sprengel on a 30-yard over the shoulder touchdown reception for the 21-20 host lead.
The game came down to the final minute as the Mustangs regained possession with 3:32 remaining on their own 10 and moved the ball into TCNJ territory. The Lions' defensive line forced Johnson out of the pocket forcing his fourth down pass attempt to fall incomplete and turn the ball over on downs.
Morrisville State will look to rebound from the heartbreaking loss on Saturday, hosting Montclair State at 1 p.m. on Drake Field.
Morrisville State College sets the world in motion for students. Curriculums are enriched with applied learning and pave the way for opportunity at both the Morrisville and Norwich campuses. An action-oriented, interactive learning lab, the college is a national leader in technology. Lauded for its exemplary, innovative and effective community service programs, the college was named to the 2012 President's Higher Community Service Honor Roll. Visit www.morrisville.edu to experience, Morrisville in motion.