PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Plymouth State College erupted for 490 yards and 49 points Saturday afternoon and captured a 49-19 Freedom Football Conference victory over Worcester Polytechnic Institute at Currier Field.
The triumph was the third in a row for the Panthers as they complete the season at the .500 mark, 5-5 overall and 3-3 in the FFC. PSC avoided its first losing season since 1979 under second-year head coach Chris Rorke. WPI completes its disappointing campaign at 2-8 and 1-5.
The balanced Panther offense ran up 245 yards on the ground and 245 yards through the air, while the special teams came through with a pair of touchdowns to spearhead the attack.
PSC running backs Jason Bordas (Elmore, Vt.) and Russ Massahos (Windham, NH) combined for 168 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Bordas carried 13 times for 103 yards and Massahos added 17 carries for 65 yards and a pair of scores. Sophomore QB Matt Simpson (Aubun, Maine) tossed for 245 yards and three touchdowns, and junior tight end John Walters (Wells, Maine) caught seven passes for a career-high 102 yards.
Junior Eric Thiboutot (Nashua, N.H.) racked up 202 all-purpose yards in a losing effort for WPI. He rushed for 103 yards and one touchdown, caught three passes for 48 yards, returned two punts for one yard, and brought back a pair of kickoffs for 50 yards.
"Thiboutot is a helluva back," said Rorke, "and even though we were up 21 points, I was still a little wary. Our defense had a lot of good hits, and we were able to get five takeaways."
PSC, which led 21-0 at the half and 28-19 after three quarters, scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to put the game away. The Panthers got their seven touchdowns from Massahos (three-yard and seven-yard runs), sophomore WR Chris Holton (Bellows Falls, Vt.) on a 36-yard reception, Walters (33-yard reception), freshman Uriah Davis (Derry, N.H.) on an 85-yard kick-off return, senior WR Andy Gale (Boxford, Mass.) on a 60-yard pass play, and senior Jason Marcell (Stoughton, Mass.) on a 45-yard run on a fake punt.
"It's my first runback since my freshman year of high school," said Davis. "I had one guy who was trying to contain me, and he was blocked, and I saw someone picked up the kicker and there was daylight. I've come close a couple of times, but there always seemed to be a tackler. Today there was no one there to tackle me."
"You can only dream of having a game like this," added Marcell, who finished with five tackles, a fumble recovery and an interception (27-yard return). "We've run that (fake-punt) a few times. I could've pitched back but I saw too much daylight. To score a touchdown in my last game here is a great way to go out. We wanted to go out solid this year and things fell for us today."
The Panthers also got a team-high nine tackles from junior LB Chris Kelliher (Goffstown, N.H.), who finished the season with a team-leading 109 stops. Junior Mike Donahue (Bedford, N.H.) contributed eight tackles, a pass breakup, and a half sack.
WPI senior Nick Fluet (Leominster, Mass.) rushed for 92 yards, but was knocked out with an injury in the third quarter, 19 yards short of 3,000 for his career and 32 yard short of 1,000 for the season. Classmate Jeff Martin (Fairhaven, Mass.) led WPI with nine tackles, tying the single season mark for tackles with 124 (matching Jon Pires in 1998).
"It's been a tough season for us for a number of reasons," said Rorke, "but we wanted to send the seniors out today with a win. We ended the year healthy and playing well. We lost a couple of heartbreaking games, but in the end we got our (injured) guys back and were playing much better at the end of the season. This is a close-knit group of guys who played their hearts out today.