NORTHFIELD, Vt. - Norwich University football got their 122nd season underway on Saturday afternoon, dropping their home opener to the Mustangs of Morrisville State University by a 34-13 final score.
The two teams traded three-and-outs at the start of the opening quarter before Morrisville State put themselves on the board midway through the quarter via a seven-yard strike from quarterback Brandon Gwinner. Gwinner found senior wideout Raffaele Bradshaw in the end zone, and Alexander Stewart chipped in the point-after to make it 7-0 Morrisville State.
Norwich punted the ball away on their ensuing possession after their drive stalled, and the Mustangs came right back down the field to set up a 31-yard field goal from Stewart to make it 10-0 Morrisville State towards the end of the first quarter.
Morrisville opened up the second quarter in possession and proceeded to drive 50 yards for another score, this one again from the right hand of Brandon Gwinner who found Toure Hall, Jr. for the 33-yard score to open up a 17-0 lead.
Needing a score, the Cadets put together an 11 play, 70-yard drive that ended in junior Aaron Conner (Daytona Beach, Fla.) converting on a 4th and 1 to get the Cadets on the board. Clyde Tamburro (Elizabethtown, Pa.) nailed the extra point, and the Mustangs lead was cut to 17-7.
The Norwich defense had no answer for quarterback Brandon Gwinner in the first half, as he picked up his third passing touchdown of the half on the very next possession. This one capped a 14 play, 90-yard drive by the Mustangs, as Gwinner found Jermaine Cooper in the end zone with a mere 1:05 remaining in the half.
Stewart followed with another extra point, and the Cadets headed to halftime trailing by a 24-7 score.
The Mustangs opened the second half in possession and chewed up 7:40 of clock time before setting up for a 35-yard field goal. Junior Nick Campobasso (Walpole, Mass.) managed to get a hand on the attempt for NU, and the blocked field goal rolled out of the end zone for a touchback.
Norwich found themselves trailing by a 27-7 score in the fourth quarter after Stewart nailed a 36-yard field goal, as the Cadets started their drive at the Morrisville 48 after a long kick return from junior Connor Bourque (Goffstown, N.H.). Bourque finished the job six plays later, catching a short pass from classmate Matthew Chaffee (Middletown, N.Y.) on fourth down and scampering 19 yards to paydirt to make it 27-13.
The remainder of the game turned into a grind, as the Cadets could not get their offense going efficiently enough to cut into the Morrisville lead. Finally, a 58-yard touchdown from Gwinner to Petrit Boga made it 34-13 with barely two minutes remaining and snuffed out any chance of a Norwich comeback.
Morrisville State's ability to convert on third down proved to be a difference in this one, as the Mustangs went 11 of 17 on third down conversions and scored three of their four touchdowns on third down plays. The Mustangs also never needed to utilize their punting unit, compared to the Cadets' six punts on the afternoon.
Brandon Gwinner had a fine day for the Mustangs, going 22-31 for 311 yards and four touchdowns. He was assisted by Nick Edmond who ran 21 times for exactly 100 yards.
For the Cadets, Chaffee went 12-26 for 138 yards and a touchdown. Aaron Conner had the only rushing touchdown of the day and Bourque pulled down the receiving score for the Cadets. Cahan Quinn (Putnam, Conn.) put in a solid effort defensively with nine tackles, 1.5 sacks, and a forced fumble.
The season opener for both teams results in a 1-0 record for the Mustangs and a corresponding 0-1 start for Norwich. The Cadets will look to straighten things out next Saturday, as they travel to St. Lawrence University for a 1:00 PM start.