CASTINE, Maine – Led by a record-breaking performance by senior running back Justin Wallace (Palatine, Ill.), the MIT football team bounced back from a third quarter deficit and scored the game's last four touchdowns to score a 55-37 victory over the Maine Maritime Academy in a New England Football Conference (NEFC) clash. The win clinched the Engineers' first-ever NEFC title as well as its first NCAA playoff berth, keeping MIT's perfect season intact at 8-0 and 6-0 in the conference. Maine Maritime fell to 3-5 and 2-4 in the NEFC.
Wallace rushed for a career-high 261 yards on just 23 carries, averaging 11.3 yards a touch. He found the end zone six times, a school record, and became MIT's all-time leading rusher with 4,290 yards, surpassing DeRon Brown '09, who finished with 4,141.
MIT put the first points on the board when senior Peter Williams (Portland, Ore.) scampered in from 11 yards out three minutes in. Michael Fahey answered five minutes later for Maine Maritime, scoring the first of his two TDs on the afternoon on a five-yard run, five minutes after Williams' run, to tie things up a 7-all.
The two teams went on to trade score-for-score, with Wallace getting the first two TDs of his day on three and 10-yard runs and the Mariners getting a two-yard run from James Ferrar and a one-yard plunge by Fahey that tied things up at 21-21 with 1:59 left in the first half.
MIT's first turnover of the game proved costly, however, when Justin Lovely intercepted Williams on the third play of the Engineers' next drive, giving the Mariners the ball on the MIT 41. Three plays later Fahey connected on a 25-yard scoring pass to Jordon Susi with just 48 seconds left in the half, giving Maine Maritime its first lead of the game at 29-21 after a two-point conversion by Ferrar.
Much like the first half, the second half started with the teams trading scores. On the first possession of the half, MIT's defense held on a fourth-and-one, forcing a fumble that resulted in a loss of 14 yards on the play and taking over on the Mariners' 22. Two plays later Wallace took it in from 11 yards out, making it 29-28. Maine Maritime answered on its next drive, going 75 yards in 11 plays to go up 37-28 on a 20-yard effort by Ferrar, who finished the day 113 yards on 25 touches.
MIT struck quickly on its next possession, taking just three plays to score when Williams connected with senior Brad Goldsberry (Elizabeth, Colo.) on a 35-yard scoring strike. The Engineers missed on the two-point conversion, leaving them with a three-point deficit at 37-34 with 5:06 left in the third.
MIT's defense held on its next trip to the field, with sophomore Austin de Maille (Newbury Park, Calif.) breaking up a pass and freshman Mitch Turley (Westfield, Ind.) making the tackle on a fourth-down effort in MIT territory. Taking over on their own 21, the Engineers marched down the field on the strength of Wallace's legs. The senior carried seven times for 49 yards, including the last three for the score that put MIT on top for good, 41-37.
Turley's tackle forced a three and out on Maine Maritime's next drive, and Wallace immediately converted for the Engineers, going 55 yards on the first play for the score. He then iced the win with a four-yard run with 5:34 to play. Maine Maritime threatened one last time, but on a fourth and four from the MIT 12, senior Cameron Wagar (West Richland, Wash.) and sophomore Anthony Emberley (Longmont, Colo.) held Fahey to just two yards. The Engineers then ran out the clock to claim the victory and the conference crown.
MIT will close out the regular season at home next week, hosting the U.S. Coast Guard Academy at 1:00 p.m. on Nov. 15. Maine Maritime will finish their season at Curry College next week at 1:00 p.m.