Football: Second half spurt on Senior Day leads to second win of 2009

By Patrick McHugh, News Staff

In their final home game, 27 members of the football team walked off Parsons Field Saturday for the last time.
They did so as winners.
The Huskies used an improved second-half effort to take a 14-13 win over the Hofstra Pride in the final home contest of the season. More than 1,000 spectators braved the wet weather on Senior Day and Homecoming Weekend. NU improves to 2-8 overall and 2-5 in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), while Hofstra is now 4-6, 2-5 in the CAA.
Head coach Rocky Hager said he was pleased the seniors got the win, but was quick to point out every member of the squad contributed.
‘As I told the guys downstairs, it was a total team win,’ Hager said.
With both teams struggling to handle the rainy and windy playing conditions, NU responded to a 3-0 halftime deficit to score two touchdown drives early in the third quarter and eventually hang on.
The Huskies ate 4:19 off the clock in their first drive of the third quarter, moving 83 yards in 10 plays to score their first points of the afternoon. Freshman quarterback Matt Carroll threw a 24-yard fade pass to junior wide receiver Greg Abelli, who managed to keep his feet inbounds at the back of the end zone for a touchdown with 7:41 remaining in the frame. Senior placekicker Mat Johnson added the extra point to make it 7-3 Northeastern.
Junior running back John Griffin surprised his opponents on the next Huskies possession to give his team a two-score lead. On a third & 6 handoff, Griffin bounced the run to the outside and lowered his shoulder to bowl over a Hofstra defender and tightrope the sidelines for a 49-yard touchdown run. Johnson’s extra point with 4:08 to go in the quarter made the score 14-3.
Hager said some changes in offensive formations helped his team move the ball in the second half, but that Griffin’s effort stood out.
‘The second touchdown run was an incredible run on John’s behalf,’ Hager said. ‘He broke that tackle, and then we got to see the track speed taking over and getting us to the end zone. It was a very big play.’
Griffin said his running backs coach, Raphael Dowdye, reminded him at halftime to keep his feet moving upon contact, which helped him break through the tackle.
‘It seemed like they were just sitting out there and waiting for me to make a move because that’s usually my tendency, but I decided to try and switch it up a bit and go full speed,’ Griffin said. ‘Coach Dowdye told me to just keep doing what you’re doing. Keep your legs moving and it’s going to break. Little by little it is going to break, and that’s what it did.’
Hofstra reached the end zone 1:15 into the fourth quarter, as sophomore quarterback Steve Probst found freshman wide receiver Nicholas Talbert for a four-yard touchdown pass. The Pride were successful on a two-point conversion after the score, as junior fullback Everette Benjamin dove across the goal line on a broken play to make the score 14-11 in favor of NU.
The Huskies defense stepped up to seal the win. With 3:07 remaining, senior linebacker Jason Vega stopped a fourth down sneak by Probst to give Northeastern the ball back.
Vega, who finished with a career-high 12 tackles and 1.5 sacks, said the defense fed off the adversity from previous games to step up and make a big stop when needed.
‘Being faced with the fourth down, we wanted to be able to stay calm and make a big play instead of letting them get the first down like we had been doing the last couple weeks,’ Vega said.
The offense bled the clock down to five seconds before being faced with a fourth down from its own 42. Rather than risk having a punt attempt blocked, senior punter Ron Conway ran backwards into the Northeastern end zone to take a safety. The two free points for Hofstra were meaningless, however, as the scoreboard read 14-13 with the clock expired.
Like Hager, Vega said the victory was less about the senior class and more about the collective team effort.
‘It’s a great feeling to go out with a win, but more or less it’s something where we came together as a team,’ Vega said.
NU will play its final game of the season Saturday at Rhode Island, with kickoff scheduled for 12:30 p.m.

Leave a Reply