Norwich gets past Gallaudet, 31-23

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Sophomore WR Chris Denton had a
46-yard catch-and-run for a TD in
Norwich's 31-23 win over Gallaudet.
Norwich athletics photo

Junior RB Andrew Fulford rushed for 136 yards and two touchdowns in the first half as the Norwich University football team escaped with a 31-23 victory over Gallaudet University in Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) action on Saturday afternoon at Sabine Field. The Cadets run their record to 5-1 overall and improve to 2-1 in the ECFC.

The game got off to an exciting start as Fulford took the opening snap 62 yards to pay dirt. Junior K Long Ding converted the extra point to put the Cadets ahead 7-0 only 17 seconds into the game.

The opening fireworks continued as Phillip Hayes returned the ensuing kickoff by senior K Ryan Kelly all the way to the Norwich four-yard line. Only a touchdown-saving tackle by freshman Nael Pierre-Louis kept Hayes out of the end zone.

Gallaudet (1-3 overall, 1-2 ECFC) wasted little time taking advantage of the great field position as QB Jimmy Garder ran the ball in on the next play to knot the score at 7-7.

The Cadets began their next drive at their own 27-yard line. After rushes by Fulford and sophomore RB Danny Triplett moved the ball near midfield, sophomore QB Kris Sabourin hit sophomore WR Chris Denton with a 46-yard catch-and-run that went the distance to put Norwich up 14-7 with 12:23 to go in the first frame.

A Gallaudet punt towards the end of the first quarter set up a seven-play, 80-yard drive for Norwich. Fulford again broke free, this time for a 26-yard touchdown scamper to cap the series. The score extended the NU advantage to 21-7 with four seconds left in the quarter.

The Cadets' defense and special teams units would be responsible for the next score. After the defense forced a three-and-out, Gallaudet's fourth-down snap went over the punter's head and out the back of the end zone for a safety to make it 23-7 with 6:31 to go in the half.

Norwich used another one-play drive to add to its lead when Sabourin broke free on a 57-yard touchdown run with 2:50 remaining in the half. The Cadets went for the two-point conversion with Sabourin successfully rifling a pass in to junior WR Adrian Dantzler to push the lead to 31-7 going into halftime.

NU outgained the Bison 368-58 in total offense in the first half, racking up 13 first downs to GU's four.

Gallaudet's offense got jump-started in the second half following a Tony Tatum interception of a Sabourin pass at its own two-yard line. The Bison went for the big play after the turnover as Gardner launched a deep pass to Ryne Worsham, hitting him in stride. Worsham was able to weave his way to the end zone after hauling in the pass, eluding a handful of NU defenders along the way. GU went for two, with Gardner successfully running the ball in himself to make the score 31-15 in favor of the Cadets with 4:49 left in the third stanza.

Another interception cost Norwich dearly when Tatum stepped in front of an errant pass by Sabourin for his second interception and returned it 39 yards for a score. Gallaudet again converted a two-point try, this time with Hayes bouncing it to the outside and getting in just inside the right pylon, to pull within eight at 31-23.

The turnover bug continued to haunt the Cadets on their next drive when Fulford fumbled the ball at the Gallaudet 20. Steven Barber picked up the ball for GU and rumbled all the way down to the Norwich 10 where Denton caught him from behind on a nice hustle play to keep him out of the end zone.

The Cadet defense came up big, stopping three runs and a fourth-down pass for the goal-line stand with 12:36 remaining in the contest.

Following a punt by senior P Brian Segit, the teams would exchange fumbles leading to a Gallaudet drive starting at the Norwich 47. Junior DB Sean Stone made a spectacular interception on Gardner's fourth-and-nine pass, leaping to snare the ball out of the air at the NU 19. Stone proceeded to return the ball 20 yards to Norwich 39-yard line with only 2:16 to go in the game.

The Cadets then went three-and-out with the Bison using all three of their timeouts to conserve the clock.

Segit's punt went out-of-bounds at the GU 35, leaving Gallaudet with 24 seconds on the clock and 65 yards to go for the potential game-tying score.

Gardner hit Worsham on first down for a twelve-yard completion to their own 47-yard line, stopping the clock to move the chains.

Following two incompletions, Gardner hit Josh Hanna for 14 yards and another first down at the Norwich 39-yard line.

After clocking the ball, Gardner found Ryan Bonheyo on screen pass that was sniffed out beautifully by junior DB Jeramie Little and stuffed for a five-yard loss.

After spiking the ball to again stop the clock, Gardner's last chance throw on fourth down from the NU 44-yard line was batted away by Stone as the game clock expired.  

The Cadets were led defensively by senior LB Rocco DiMeco (eight tackles, 1.5 tackles-for-loss) and senior DL Chris Roberto (seven tackles, one sack and one TFL). Senior LB Daniel Reale added a forced fumble and sophomore DL Joe Munno had a fumble recovery.

Fulford finished the day with 172 yards on 20 carries to go with his two touchdowns. Sabourin added 132 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries for NU and went 7-for-18 through the air for 114 yards and a touchdown.

Denton had two catches for 55 yards and a score, while senior WR Emilio Martinez had four catches for 53 yards to lead the Cadet receiving corps.

Both teams ran 64 plays on offense with the Cadets holding a 475-268 edge in total yards for the game. The Bison held the advantage in passing yards 128-114. NU finished with 19 first downs to Gallaudet's 12.

Norwich will continue its home stand next Saturday, Oct. 16, when they host Husson for Parent's Weekend. Kickoff for the ECFC tilt is set for 1:30 p.m.