NEW LONDON, Conn. - The Norwich University football team lost an instant classic of a contest against the Bears of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy on Saturday afternoon in the "Little Army-Navy Game", falling by a 38-35 final score that went right down to the wire.
Coming off a huge 40-0 victory over Castleton University a week before in the Maple Sap Bucket rivalry game, the Cadets were looking to reclaim "The Mug" trophy on the road at the Coast Guard Academy.
Norwich's offense stayed hot, scoring on their first drive by covering 75 yards in ten plays, capped off by a one-yard Aaron Conner (Daytona Beach, Fla.) rush for a touchdown.
The Bears booted three field goals and collected a touchdown to take a 16-7 lead before the Cadets found the end zone again. This time came courtesy of sophomore quarterback Matt Dunn (Rockland, Mass.), who found Manni Romero (Phillipsburg, N.J.) for a fifty-yard score downfield to make it 16-14 CGA after the extra point.
The Cadet defense forced a punt with 1:25 left in the half, and the NU managed to drive 58 yards in 14 plays to set up a field goal attempt as time expired, but the kick was wide left and sent the two teams to halftime at a 16-14 score.
Coast Guard started the second half with possession, and promptly drove 75 yards in 1:47 for a touchdown to make it 23-14.
After a couple of punts from either side, Dunn and Romero connected again. This time from nine yards out to cut Coast Guard lead down to 23-21 as the third quarter expired.
The first Norwich drive of the fourth quarter ended in the exact same way, as the two connected for a 15-yard touchdown to give Norwich a 28-23 lead. Coast Guard answered with a touchdown drive of their own to regain the lead, 31-28.
After a Norwich three-and-out on the ensuing possession, junior Brasean Stewart (Bronx, N.Y.) stepped up and pulled down an interception on the first play of the drive, setting the Norwich offense up with a chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter.
The Cadets' offense wasted no time, as Romero broke out for his fourth touchdown of the day from Dunn, this one for 28-yards and a 35-31 Norwich lead.
Coast Guard received the kickoff and started their drive with 4:00 remaining in the game, with 76 yards separating them from the end zone. From that point, the Bears grinded out a 16 play drive that ate up 3:51 of game time and saw CGA convert on three fourth-down plays, including the three-yard rush from Ryan Jones that capped the drive and gave Coast Guard a 38-35 lead with nine seconds left to play.
The kickoff was fielded by Connor Bourque (Goffstown, N.H.), who flipped it to a reversing Manni Romero. Romero broke into the open field as time expired, but kicker Cole Austin made the tackle to end the game.
Matt Dunn led Norwich with another phenomenal performance under center, going 23-35 for 274 yards and four touchdowns. Manni Romero caught all four of the touchdowns to tie a Norwich single-game record set by Pierre Garcon in 2004, collecting 118 yards on the way. On the other side, Lavontae Decius (North Lauderdale, Fla.) hauled in seven receptions for 112 yards. Aaron Conner dominated the touches in the running game, rushing 32 times for 161 yards and a score. Brasean Stewart led the defense with 11 tackles, an interception, and two tackles for a loss.
The loss drops Norwich down to 1-3 on the year, and 0-1 in the NEWMAC. Norwich will return home next Saturday to take on Springfield at 1:00 PM.