WESTFIELD, Mass. – Junior quarterback Tim Rich (242 total offensive yards, 3 touchdown passes) and Kevin Parnell (6 receptions, 137 yards), along with an opportunistic defense, lifted Westfield State University to a 41-18 victory over Nichols College in the 2012 football season opener.
Rich, in his collegiate debut as quarterback, completed 11 of 22 passes for 205 yards and three touchdowns and also rushed for 37 yards. The shifty 5-10, 185-pounder from Chelmsford, Mass., threw scoring strikes to Parnell (50 yards) and junior receiver Kane Terilli (10, 24 yards) as the Owls bolted to a commanding 34-3 lead midway through the third period after a scoreless first quarter.
Westfield's first score was initially set up by stellar special teams play. Dan Dowling perfectly placed a 32-yard punt that was downed by Terilli inside the 1-yard line. Two plays later, defensive back Gregg Jackson intercepted a pass at the 10 yard line. Sophomore running back Michael Mercadante (17 carries, 57 yards) scored his first of two touchdowns on a third-and-goal from the Bison 2.
Nichols scored its first points on the next possession on a 26-yard field goal by Casey Lombardi. The field goal was set up by a 60-yard pass completion from quarterback Jacob Shoup to receiver Mark Parker.
The Owls struck for three touchdowns in the final 5:40 of the first half to take a 27-3 lead. Westfield put together its longest scoring drive in the second stanza, marching 70 yards in 14 plays, capped by a Rich-to-Terilli 10-yard TD connection at the 5:40 mark.
Less than a minute later, the Owls scored on a 23-yard interception return by Anthony Raneri. Westfield got possession of the ball a final time with 2:12 left in the half and drove 53 yards in four plays, with Rich rifling a 24-yard scoring strike to Terilli.
The Owls scored their fourth consecutive touchdown midway through the third period on a nice pass-run TD jaunt by Parnell, who snagged a well-placed throw from Rich at the 15-yard line and cut across the field for the score.
With both teams substituting freely in the fourth quarter, Nichols backup quarterback Pat Viencek threw touchdown passes of 37 and 19 yards to Joe Lambert and Dylan Rimsky. Mercadante completed Westfield's scoring with 9:36 remaining in the game on a two-yard run that capped a 7-play, 49-yard drive.
Westfield had a balanced attack, racking up 22 first downs on 209 passing and 182 rushing yards. The Bison also passed for 209 yards but they were held to 68 net yards rushing. Nichols' Jonathan Winbush led all runners with 64 yards on 15 carries.
The Owl defense forced five turnovers, including four interceptions, and recorded three sacks. Standout senior defensive end Chris "C-Walk" Walker had a team-high nine tackles and two quarterback sacks. Raneri recovered a fumble deep in Owl territory in addition to his TD interception return and senior cornerback Mike Szydlowski picked off two passes.