The St. Lawrence University football team's defense caused five turnovers and surrendered only 114 yards of offense on Saturday, as the Saints defeated Norwich University by the score of 14-3 in front of 2,950 fans at the re-opening of Sabine Field in Northfield, VT. The victory moves St. Lawrence to 2-0 for the first time since 1982.
The Saints' defense had four interceptions, as Jayson Leigh made his third pick of the year while Alec Dietsch, James Holley-Grisham and Otis Handy each added one for the visitors. The unit allowed only 27 yards rushing on 36 attempts, while senior Obi Nwaigwe had 2.0 sacks and forced a key fumble to help ensure the Scarlet and Brown of the victory. It was the first game since October 23, 2010 that the Saints held their opponent without a touchdown (14-3, RPI).
"This was a great team win. Our defense made some big-time plays when we needed them," said St. Lawrence head coach Mark Raymond. "We went into a tough environment and beat a good football team. I'm very proud of the effort we gave."
The Saints' offense was led by senior Mike Tateosian, who hauled in five passes for 81 yards including the insurance touchdown in the third quarter. Maurice Irby handed the majority of work out of the backfield, rushing for 44 yards on 16 carries, while Mike Lefflbine was 16-of-29 passing for 138 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Senior Zane Fish also saw time under center and was 2-for-2 passing for 37 yards including the eventual game-winning score to Colby Johnson.
Dietch and Sean Gretz finished with a team-high seven tackles for St. Lawrence, while Stephen Gilmore led all defenders for Norwich with nine stops. Al Georgio was the leading rusher for the Cadets with only 15 yards on 11 rushes, while Jon Queen was 4-of-11 passing for 48 yards and three interceptions.
A scoreless first quarter saw two interceptions and a turnover on downs, as both offenses struggled to move the football. Holley-Grisham's interception on the opening drive of the second quarter gave St. Lawrence the ball on its own 38-yard line, but moved it to the Norwich 26 on six plays. On the seventh play of the drive, Fish lobbed a pass over a corner to Colby Johnson, who climbed the ladder to haul in the 26-yard strike for a 6-0 lead. Collin Shapiro added the extra point with 10:37 to play in the half.
Norwich started each of its final two drives of the half in St. Lawrence territory, but managed only a field goal in the final minute. Wesley Medeiros connected from 35 yards out to end the first half to bring the score to 7-3.
Though the Saints failed to score on their opening drive of the second half, Brodie Corless' 60 yard punt was downed at the 1-yard line, and when the visitors' defense forced a three-and-out, they inherited great field position at the Norwich 38. From there, Lefflbine took his offense to the end zone behind solid completions to Evan Shifley and Nik Busharis before connecting with Tateosian from 15-yards out for the score. Shapiro again added the extra point for a 14-3 third quarter cushion.
The insurance score was plenty for the St. Lawrence defense, which forced four straight punts from Norwich before Handy intercepted Queen in the red zone with 7:24 to play in the fourth quarter. Despite not being able to add to its total, the Saints managed to wipe 5:10 off the game clock on the ensuing drive thanks to 14 plays that only covered 22 yards. The Cadets would have two more offensive possessions, but Nwaigwe forced a fumble that was recovered by the visitors, and Dietch intercepted Queen in the end zone to ensure the victory with only 13 seconds to play.
The game marked a new era for the Norwich Cadets, who now call an artificial-turf surface home after playing over 90 seasons of football on natural grass. The field's upgrades include stadium lighting, a new scoreboard, and a renovated grandstand.
St. Lawrence will put its unbeaten record on the line again next Saturday when it travels to SUNY Morrisville on Saturday, September 21 for a 2:00pm kick-off.