PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The Plymouth State University defense turned in its strongest performance of the season Saturday afternoon, collecting three turnovers and holding Nichols College to 257 yards en route to a 30-0 victory over the Bison in a pivotal New England Football Conference Boyd Division Contest at Currier Field.
PSU, which had been allowing an average of 326 yards and nearly 25 points a game, stifled the Bison offense. Nichols had only 169 yards until an 88-yard drive in the final five minutes of the game, which ended at the PSU one-yard line with a Panther interception. Plymouth State posted it first shutout victory since a 21-0 whitewash of Norwich in 2001.
The Panthers improved to 6-0 overall and 4-0 in the NEFC Boyd Division, while Nichols drops to 4-2 overall and 3-1 in the division. PSU has won eight straight games, dating back to last season, and is 6-0 to start the season for the seventh time in school history and first time since 1995.
It was a team effort for the Panther defense, as seven different players made tackles in the Nichols backfield. Senior Jeff Ethier (North Attleboro, Mass.) and junior Tim Nicholson (Franklin, Mass.) led the group with six tackles apiece.
Junior quarterback John DeMarco (Milford, N.H./Milford) and senior tailback Jeff Mack (Milford, N.H./Milford) led the Panther offense. DeMarco rushed for 113 yards and two touchdowns, a 38-yard scramble for a score and a two-yard sneak, while Mack rushed 17 times for 106 yards, his fourth 100-yard effort of the season. Mack also became the sixth back in school history to rush for more than 1,500 career yards, as he push his career total to 1,524.
The outcome spoiled a solid performance by Nichols junior Robert Morris (Melbourne, Fla.), who rushed for 119 yards on 27 carries.
The Panthers took control of the game in the first quarter and never let up. PSU outgained the Bison in total yards in the opening frame, 213-68, and led 14-0 on a 22-yard burst up the middle for a touchdown by junior fullback Brandon Clough (Gonic, N.H./Spaulding) and DeMarco's 38-yard scramble. Another strong drive early in the second quarter stalled, but senior Chris Dopp (Epsom, N.H.) kicked a 24-yard field goal, and the Panthers led 17-0 at the half.
DeMarco led PSU on another scoring drive to start the third quarter, and he went into the end zone from two yards out to make it a 23-0 game, and sophomore Jay Baird (Worcester, Mass.) rounded out the scoring with a one-yard run early in the fourth quarter.
PSU faces its toughest test of the season next Saturday with a visit to four-time defending NEFC champion Curry College. The Colonels, ranked #1 in New England Division III, take a 6-0 record into Saturday night's home contest vs. Endicott College.
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