NORTHFIELD, Vt. – The Norwich University football team set a pair of program records in the team's 30-24 win over St. Lawrence University on Sabine Field at Haynes Family Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The victory in the season home opener saw the Cadets secure its first Hoffman Cup trophy and marked the first time the team has opened the season with two-straight victories since a 3-0 start to the 2012 season.
Norwich got off to an inauspicious start to the game when the first two offensive series resulted in a botched punt and an interception. Momentum appeared to swing in favor of the visitors as St. Lawrence (0-2) took advantage of great field position after the misguided punt by the Cadets.
Saints' sophomore quarterback Tyler Grochot (Ottawa, Ontario) capped a three-play 37-yard drive by hooking up with junior receiver Joseph Viscardo (Bloomingdale, N.Y.) for an 18-yard touchdown within the first three minutes of the game. The visitors' junior defensive back Max Gilbert (Newburyport, Mass.) then proceeded to intercept a wayward pass from Norwich junior quarterback Matt Dunn (Rockland, Mass.) on the next series to put the Saints in a position to take command in the opening quarter.
The Cadet defense rose to the occasion, however, and forced the Saints into a three-and-out series.
Norwich got on the board on the next offensive series with a methodical 12-play, 44-yard drive that was capped by a 37-yard field goal from junior kicker Clyde Tamburro (Elizabethtown, Pa.).
Norwich benefitted greatly from its special teams play to close out the first quarter and continued to make plays to start the second quarter. On the visitors' very next offensive series, the Cadets forced the Saints to punt. Senior Isaac Houston (Berwick, Maine) broke free and got a hand up to block the punt giving Norwich the ball at the Saints' 15-yard line. Four plays later, senior running back Connor Bourque (Goffstown, N.H.) punched it in from four yards out to give the Cadets their first lead of the game, 10-7.
The Norwich defense remained stout and forced the Saints into another three-and-out on the next offensive series. The subsequent punt was caught at the Norwich 30-yard line by junior Manni Romero (Phillipsburg, N.J.) who deftly side stepped the first wave of St. Lawrence defenders and maneuvered his way 70 yards for a punt return touchdown to give the Cadets a 16-7 lead.
The teams traded several defensive stands through the middle of the second quarter before Dunn connected with Romero on a long, 30-yard touchdown pass down the left side to extend the lead to 23-7.
The Saints' Grochot helped march the visitors down the field with a 10-play, 56-yard drive capped by a four-yard reception by junior wide receiver Bryan Dempsey (Forestville, N.Y.) to cut the deficit to 23-14 minutes before half. That scoring play was set up by a crucial 46-yard gain through the air as Grochot hooked up with junior wide receiver Andrew Murphy (Glens Falls, N.Y.) on fourth-and-six.
With just over a minute remaining in the first half and St. Lawrence marching again towards the Cadets' red zone, Austen Greene (Herndon, Va.) came up with a crucial defensive pass break up on fourth down as he delivered a timely hit just the ball arrived to the Saints' receiver forcing the ball to the ground and causing St. Lawrence to turnover the ball on downs.
The play swung the momentum back to Norwich as the ensuing drive culminated with a touchdown as Norwich's Dunn hit freshman receiver Trevor Chase (Eliot, Maine) who made a diving catch in the right corner of the endzone to extend the hosts' lead to 30-14 heading into halftime.
Both teams found scoring more difficult in the second half with the adjustments made at halftime. While Norwich continued to move the ball on offense, St. Lawrence was able to hold the Cadets off the scoreboard.
St. Lawrence stuck to its air-attack through the majority of the second half and was able to register 10 points with a 36-yard field goal and a 23-yard touchdown pass from Grochot to Viscardo in the fourth quarter.
With the hosts leading 30-24 and 3:32 left of the clock, the Saints' defense forced the Cadets into a critical 3rd and 11 on Norwich's own 24-yard line. Dunn delivered a clutch throw as he found freshman receiver Tristan Johnson (Ocala, Fla.) over the middle for a gain of 27 yards. Norwich managed to rundown the clock in the final minutes of the game utilizing its running game.
The teams combined for 815 passing yards on over 100 passing attempts. With his 34 passes completed for Norwich, Dunn set a new standard for most passes completed in a game in program history, surpassing the previous high of 29 set by Ben Clark in 2002. Chase also made program history with 13 receptions in a single game which bested the previous mark of 11 set by Trystan Colaire in 2015.
Dunn was 34-for-49 through the air for 399 yards and two touchdowns against one interception to help drive the host offense. Three Cadet receivers posted 100-yard days with Chase registering 135 yards, Romero adding 129 yards on eight catches while Johnson totaled 107 yards on eight receptions. Aaron Conner (Daytona Beach, Fla.) rushed for 65 yards on 19 carries to power the running game.
Senior linebacker Jonathan Moltimer (Boca Raton, Fla.) paced the defense with nine total tackles while senior defensive back Tavares Ward (Sunrise, Fla.) contributed eight tackles. Senior defensive lineman Nick Campobasso (Walpole, Mass.) registered a sack among his three tackles, two of which were for losses.
Norwich will look to make it three-straight wins next Saturday when it hosts Coast Guard in the Little Army-Navy Game which will occur during the Bicentennial celebration during Homecoming Weekend. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m.