MIT Holds Off Pomona-Pitzer, 28-26, In Football Season Opener in California

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CLAREMONT, Calif. – A 13-yard touchdown run by junior Justin Wallace (Palatine, Ill.) midway through the fourth quarter gave MIT the lead for good as the Engineers held off Pomona-Pitzer College, 28-26, in the 2013 football season opener for both teams. The trip to the West Coast was the farthest that MIT has ever travelled for a football game in the history of the program.

MIT had the upper hand for most of the first half as the Engineers built a 19-7 halftime lead. After holding Pomona-Pitzer to a three-and-out on the first possession of the contest, MIT drove 60 yards in 15 plays on its first drive that resulted in a 29-yard field goal by freshman Tucker Cheyne (Avon, Conn.).

Back-to-back sacks by senior Joel Santistiban (Lawrence, N.Y.) and sophomore Alex Noakes (Watkinsville, Ga.) thwarted the next Sagehen drive, setting the Engineers up on another scoring drive. Junior Peter Williams (Portland, Ore.) hit sophomore Seve Esparrago (St. Louis, Mo.) for 33 yards on the first play of the drive, with Wallace capping it off with a one-yard plunge that put MIT up 9-0 after the extra point attempt hit the left upright.

Pomona-Pitzer got on the board in the second quarter when quarterback Peter Ianelli hit Duncan Hussey with a 20-yard scoring strike at the 9:20 mark. MIT, which scored on four of its five first-half possessions, answered the Sagehen score with another one-yard  run by Wallace and a 25-yard field Cheyne field goal that made it 19-7.  

Defense was the name of the game in a scoreless third quarter, as MIT managed just 77 yards and Pomona-Pitzer 83. Early in the fourth quarter the momentum switched over to the Sagehens when Hussey caught a ball in the end zone only to have it jarred away by junior Cameron Wagar (West Richland, Wash.) on a hard hit. Wagar was called for a personal foul, however, and Pomona-Pitzer overcame a penalty to convert on a 12-yard Ianelli to Hussey play. With the momentum on their side, the Sagehens held MIT on its next possession and came back with another Ianelli-Hussey scoring play, this time from four-yards out that put Pomona-Pitzer on top for the first time in the game at 20-19 after a failed two-point conversion.

MIT came back on its next possession and regained the lead and the momentum after driving 63 yards in just five plays. Williams and Esparrago hooked up again on another long play, this time for 27 yards, with Wallace finishing things off on the next play with his 13-yard run that made it 25-20 with 8:17 left. The Engineers then held the Sagehens on their next possession, getting a key sack from sophomore Matt Hole (Santa Maria, Calif.). MIT then put together a seven-play, 62-yard drive that resulted in Cheyne's third field goal of the day, another 27-yard boot that made it 28-20 with 2:20 to go. With that kick Cheyne set a new MIT record for field goals in a game in his first collegiate outing.

Pomona-Pitzer was not done, however, as the Ianelli to Hussey connection worked again, this time from 33 yards out as the Sagehens closed to 28-26 with 1:29 left. The key two-point attempt failed, however, setting up an onside kick attempt. The attempt was covered by the Engineers, however, and with Pomona-Pitzer out of timeouts MIT was able to run out the clock and preserve the win.

Wallace finished with 156 yards on 32 carries for MIT, scoring three times. Williams hit on 19 of his 30 attempts for 288 yards, with Esparrago hauling in six for 103 yards. Ianelli was 20-of-30 for 217 yards and four scores, with 11 of those completions and all of the scores going to Hussey who totaled 145 yards.

MIT will stay on the road next week, just a bit closer to home this time as it travels to Becker College for a 1:00 p.m. game on September 14.