PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Sophomore Jeff Parker (Norwich, NY) rushed for 123 yards and two fourth quarter touchdowns Saturday to lead Plymouth State College to a 21-16 non-conference football victory over SUNY Brockport in PSC's home opener at Currier Field.
Parker, a reserve tailback who had only five yards on three carries at halftime, exploded for 118 second-half yards on 20 carries. He scored from one yard out with 7:20 to play in the fourth quarter to give PSC its first lead at 14-10, then added what would become the game-winner from eight yards out with 4:43 remaining to put PSC ahead 21-10.
‘This was my first real big college game, where I got a chance to go at it for real," said Parker, who was a freshman reserve in '97. "Our running game gave our offense a chance to get going in the fourth quarter. Today we showed that we can run the ball against a good team."
The game was decided on several big plays in the second half. With PSC trailing 10-7 in the third quarter, the Brockport defense stopped PSC at the one yard-line on fourth and goal. The Golden Eagles took over on downs, drove 93 yards and appeared headed for an insurance score, but fumbled on the PSC six-yard line.
PSC recovered and traveled the length of the field and took the lead on Parker's first touchdown. The drive was momentarily stalled when Brockport's Dane McShane (Brewerton, NY) intercepted a pass, but McShane fumbled on the return and PSC recovered at its own 34 yard line. Two plays later, PSC QB Zach Matthews (Sanford, ME) connected with junior Brent Bardellini (Milford, MA) on a 63-yard pass play to the Brockport one-yard line, where Parker scored three plays later.
Parker took over for PSC on the next Panther possession. He carried three times for 35 yards, including a eight-yard scoring burst with 4:49 to play to give PSC a 21-10 advantage. Junior wide receiver Pat McDonald (Lancaster, NY) caught his second touchdown pass for Brockport with 2:25 remaining to make it 21-16, but PSC recovered the Brockport onside kick ran out the clock.
"The fourth quarter was ours today," said PSC head coach Mike Kemp. "I think our conditioning wore them down, and we were able to take control of the line. We were looking to answer some questions at the tailback position, and today Jeff (Parker) stepped up when we needed someone to step up."
Matthews had his second straight solid performance as PSC's quarterback, passing for 222 yards. He helped PSC get even with Brockport, which edged the Panthers last season in Western New York, 10-9.
"This was a real team win, and redemption from last year's tough loss," said Matthews. "Everybody who plays football plays in a crazy game like this sometime. We knew we could win this game, it was just matter of putting it together. I thought home field advantage was a huge part of the game."
Senior Adam Rodger (Rochester, NY) finished with 115 yards on 28 carries for Brockport, his school-record 15th career 100-yard game. He became the second Golden Eagle in history to go over 3,000 yards in a career, as he now has 3,054 yards and needs only 90 more to break the school standard. McDonald finished with a career-best 104 receiving yards and two TDs, including Brockport's first score, a 68-yard reception in the first quarter.
"I thought we had this game," said Brockport coach Rocco Salomone. "It was a strange game, and obviously we're very disappointed but give Plymouth State's program credit. They're a very good team. I thought the interception was a chance to put them away, but when we fumbled it turned the tide of the game."
The Panthers, off to a 2-0 start in non-conference games, open the Freedom Football Conference schedule next Saturday (Sept. 26) at Currier Field against Norwich University (12:00 p.m.). The game will be televised live on WMUR-TV, the ABC affiliate in Manchester, NH. Brockport plays its third straight road game in a difficult September schedule, a 1:30 p.m. contest at Montclair State.
"We're coming along a little everyday," said Kemp, who is now 14-8 as a head coach at PSC. "With a young team you take two steps forward and then two back. Today's game typified that. We have some good young talent on this team, and the kids are beginning to understand the scheme."
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