Story and photo courtesy of New Haven Athletics
WALTHAM, Mass. - Holding on to a four-point lead, the University of New Haven defense sacked Bentley University on fourth down with 1:18 left in the fourth quarter to seal a 17-13 victory Saturday afternoon. The No. 5/6 Chargers improved to 6-0 overall and 5-0 in the Northeast-10 Conference with the win. The Falcons fall to 5-1 overall and 4-1 in conference play.
The opening quarter featured a defensive battle with the two top defenses in the Northeast-10 Conference on the field. Bentley was forced to punt in its first two series, while the Chargers threw on interception and had two punts in the first quarter. The Falcons eventually took over at their own 37-yard line with 2:22 left in the first quarter. Three plays later, starting quarterback Dan Guadagnoli coughed up the ball and UNH's Kendrick Butler recovered at Bentley's 46-yard line.
After eating up 1:02 of time to close out the first quarter, the Chargers went 46 yards for a touchdown. The nine-play drive was capped by a 27-yard touchdown pass and catch from Ronnie Nelson (Stuart, Fla./South Fork ) to Jason Thompson (Indiantown, Fla./South Fork ). The Chargers' defense once again forced Bentley to go three-and-out, giving the offense possession inside Bentley territory once again.
Victor Jones (Paterson, N.J./Passaic County Tech) and Nelson carried the load on New Haven's next drive of the first half. The second scoring drive went 42-yards on six plays before Jones broke through the center of the Chargers offensive line with a five-yard touchdown carry. Chris Scifo (Coral Springs, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas / Central Connecticut State University) split the uprights on the extra point and the Chargers took a 14-0 lead with 7:18 left in the second quarter.
The Falcons next series once again ended in a punt, while New Haven took over at its own 32-yard line with 5:41 on the clock. Just one play later, Bentley intercepted a Nelson pass and took over at its own 23-yard line. The Falcons possession ended seven plays later with their sixth punt of the first half, while the Chargers final series of the first half also ended with a punt. Bentley controlled possession as the first half came to a close, but didn't threaten.
On its first series of the second half, New Haven was forced to punt after just three plays. Raheem Stanley (Hartford, Conn./Weaver ) stopped Bentley's Lorenzo Warren three yards in the backfield and forced the Falcons into another punting situation on their first possession of the second half. On the ensuing punt, New Haven's Josh Smart (Hamden, Conn./Hamden ) bobbled the catch and Bentley recovered at New Haven's 22 yard line.
Five plays later, Alex Dyer (Westbrook, Conn./Westbrook) ripped the ball out of Guadagnoli's arm inside the one yard line. Matthew Fallico (Syracuse, N.Y./Fayetteville Manlius / Hudson Valley) recovered the fumble and the Chargers' defense once again stopped the Falcons from scoring. New Haven's next drive went just 16 yards and it was forced into a punting situation for the fourth time in the game. New Haven and Bentley again exchanged punt before the Falcons gained possession at its own 44-yard line with 5:34 left in the third quarter.
Bentley then went 56-yards on seven plays to score its first points of the afternoon. Guadagnoli connected with Jeff Hill on two plays during the stretch, including a two-yard touchdown pass and catch. With 1:46 left in the third quarter, the Falcons brought the Chargers lead to seven. New Haven's next drive went into Bentley's red zone, but a field goal attempt sailed wide left after a nine-play, 61-yard drive. New Haven took 4:38 off the clock and controlled possession through the change of quarters.
The Falcons took over at their own 20-yard line with 12:02 left in the fourth. Bentley then went all 80 yards on 12 plays over the course of 5:10 to score a 10-yard touchdown pass and catch. Guadagnoli's pass to Bill Kiley brought the score to 14-13 with 6:56 on the clock. Bentley game-tying extra point attempt missed wide left and the Chargers held on to a one-point lead.
New Haven answered with a 10-play, 56-yard drive over the course of 5:20. The drive, which included a heavy does of Jones, was capped by a 30-yard field goal by Scifo. The Chargers went up by four points, 17-13, with just 1:32 left in the game. Bentley's final drive began at its own 25-yard line, after a Scifo kickoff was not returned out of the endzone. The Falcons earned five yards on first down and back-to-back incompletions forced a crucial fourth-and-five with 1:18 left. After a timeout, New Haven's pass rush forced Guadagnoli back into the packet where Brent MacLeod (Winchester, Mass./Winchester) brought down the quarterback and sealed the Chargers' victory.
New Haven took the field and went into victory formation for two plays before time expired in the fourth.
MacLeod led the Chargers' defense with three sacks, while Raheem Stanley (Hartford, Conn./Weaver ) broke through with six tackles, including two tackles-for-loss. Linebackers Mike Gomes (Brockton, Mass./Brockton ) and Fallico combined for 13 total tackles to anchor the Chargers' defense which allowed only six rushing yards in the game. In total, the Falcons amassed only 199 total yards on 62 plays.
Offensively, the Chargers rolled for 174 rushing yards and 114 passing yards. Jones led the rushing game with 66 yards on 12 carries, while Mike DeCaro (Weston, Fla./Cypress Bay ) chipped in with 58 yards on 11 carries. Nelson also recorded 34 yards on 12 carries. The Stuart, Fla. native also threw for 114 yards and one touchdown on 12-of-22 passing.
The nationally ranked Chargers return to action on Thursday, October 18 when they travel to Stonehill College for an 8 p.m. kickoff. The game will be nationally televised on CBS Sports Network as part of its NCAA DII Game of the Week coverage. Stay posted to www.NewHavenCahrgers.com for complete information on Thursday's game. Channel information and much more will be available Sunday evening.