MANCHESTER, N.H. - After nearly three and a half hours and five overtime periods, Saint Anselm College quarterback Michael Pierce (Andover, Mass.) rambled into the end zone from 13 yards out Saturday afternoon for the game-winning touchdown in a thrilling 41-35 victory over Plymouth State University at Grappone Stadium.
The score capped off the second-longest football game in NCAA Division II history and also fell one extra period shy of the NCAA Division III record.
Plymouth State led almost all of the first four quarters, taking an early 14-0 lead and maintaining the advantage until Saint Anselm scored a game-tying touchdown with 39 seconds remaining in regulation play to knot the score at 23-23.
The teams traded touchdowns on their first overtime possessions, PSU scoring its first play and Saint Anselm matching it, but both kickers missed the extra point attempt. They traded touchdowns again on their third OT possessions, with PSU again scoring first and Saint Anselm answering on fourth-and-14, but each time the teams' two-point conversion failed. Finally in the fifth overtime, the Panthers missed a field goal attempt and Pierce ran it in to win it for the Hawks.
The Panthers got on the board first midway through the first quarter as freshman Tyler Long (Dover, N.H.) scored on a seven-yard run. The Panthers used a 37-yard pass to get into the red zone on the first play of the next series, and junior Chris Francher (Weare, N.H.) rumbled in on the next play from nine yards out to make it a 14-0 Panther advantage.
Saint Anselm got on the board late in the first quarter as Pierce connected with sophomore Marc Wilson (Farmington, Conn.) for a 10-yard scoring pass. The score was set up by a 66-yard completion to Wilson. The Hawks' two-point conversion attempt failed.
The teams traded second quarter field goals, a 34-yarder by PSU sophomore Christian Mulcahy (Norwich, Conn.) and a 30-yarder by freshman Zack McCabe (E. Freetown, Mass.), to make it a 17-9 score at halftime.
The Hawks started the second half with a 36-yard touchdown reception by Wilson from Pierce, cutting the margin to 17-16 just 1:54 into the second half. PSU had a field goal blocked late in the third quarter, but Mulcahy knocked one through from 20 yards out early in the fourth to make it 20-16 and added his third of the day from 27 yards out with 2:24 left on the clock, putting PSU ahead 23-16.
Facing defeat, the Hawks embarked on a nine-play, 66-yard drive that was capped by a spectacular over-the-shoulder catch by freshman Chris Chapman (Bronx, N.Y.) in the corner of the end zone to send the game into overtime.
The game became the first overtime affair in PSU's 40-year history, and the first for the Hawks since 2005 and just the third in school history.
The Panthers scored on the first play of the first overtime when junior J.J. Brooks (Seabrook, N.H./Winnacunnet) found senior Alex Smith (Walpole, Mass.) in the corner of the end zone for the score. The Hawks answered on an 18-yard run from Pierce.
After both teams came up empty in the second overtime, the Panthers took the lead again on a one-yard TD rush from Brooks, and the two-point conversion fell incomplete. Saint Anselm was down to their final down on fourth and goal at the 14-yard line when Pierce found Marcel Bouie (Stone Mountain, Ga.) for the tying TD and the game headed into the fourth extra period.
The fourth overtime was a scoreless one as well as the Hawks fumbled the ball on their sixth play of the possession, setting up a potential shot at the victory for the Panthers. It was not to be though as a 35-yard attempt by Mulcahy flew wide right.
In the fifth and final overtime period, Mulcahy again missed wide on a 31-yard attempt and it was Saint Anselm ball. After Pierce completed a 12-yard pass to Wilson on first down, Pierce dodged tacklers and barreled his way in for the game-winning score and his sixth overall touchdown of the game.
Saint Anselm finished with a 473-344 advantage in total yards. Pierce set a Saint Anselm single-game passing record with 374 yards as he completed 32 of 53 attempts with four touchdowns. He also scored two on the ground. Wilson set a pair of records with 12 receptions for 187 yards, and added a single-game mark with 260 all-purpose yards.
Freshman Dale DeGraw (Jamesburg, N.J.) led the Hawk defense with 15 tackles. Bohenek added 11 tackles, while Kevin Flynn (Wakefield, Mass.), Ethan Sylvain (East Montpelier, Vt.) and Chris Bent (Dracut, Mass.) all had 10 tackles.
Brooks led the Panther attack with 96 rushing yards and one TD, while also throwing for 82 yards and another score. Smith was the leading receiver with 74 yards on three receptions. On defense, Harry Fallon (Hampton Falls, N.H.) had 13 tackles, while Mulcahy had 11 tackles, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and one interception.
The Hawks, 1-1 overall, are back in action on Friday night as the team travels to Bentley University for a 7 p.m. start. PSU, 0-1, returns home to host Mount Ida College next Saturday in the home opener at Currier Field (1:00 p.m.)
(Story Courtesy of Saint Anselm Sports Information) (Video Vourtesy of Kevin Gray, N.H. Union Leader)
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