Northfield, VT --- Sean McAllen (Prospect, CT) ran for 132 yards and became WPI's all-time single season rushing leader and Lou Garcia (Springfield, MA) returned the second of his two second half interceptions for a touchdown as the Engineers went on the road and defeated Norwich 42-7 in the regular season finale on a chilly Saturday afternoon.
With the win, WPI improves to 8-2 on the season and awaits word either Sunday evening or Monday morning on a possible New England Bowl bid. The eight victories equals the second most in school history (1983, 1989, 1990) behind the nine posted by the 1992 squad. The Engineers' six-game winning streak is their most since an eight-game string during the 1992 campaign.
The victory also pushed the Crimson and Gray's final NEWMAC mark to 6-1, good enough for second place in the conference's inaugural season. WPI entered the day with a chance to share the title three ways with Springfield and MIT but the Pride defeated Cambridge's Engineers 43-7 to finish the conference slate 7-0. Norwich sees its 2017 season come to an end with a 1-9 record overall and 1-6 in NEWMAC play.
Norwich dented the scoring column first. The Cadets took the opening kickoff and drove down deep into Engineer territory but had a 38-yard field goal blocked by WPI's Dereck Pacheco (Barnstable, MA). On the ensuing drive however Bo Phillips (Chappaqua, NY) picked off a ball near midfield and, immediately following a 19 yard complete on 3rd and long by Matthew Chaffee (Middletown, NY) to Nolan Aurelia (Stratford, CT), Steve Cuqua (Walpole, MA) rumbled in from six yards out to make it 7-0 Norwich.
After off a goal-line interception on its next offensive possession, the WPI defense stiffened and forced a Cadet punt. The Crimson and Gray then drove 53 yards on 10 plays capped by a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Lain Zembek (Binghamton, NY) to even the score at 7-7 early in the second quarter. After WPI forced the second of two straight three-and-outs, the offense got the back and marched 33 yards on six plays and used a six-yard scamper by McAllen to grab a 14-7 halftime advantage.
Norwich forced the Engineers to punt on the opening drive of the second half and looked like they were going to punt themselves but WPI's Sam Malafronte (Abington, MA) thwarted a fake punt to give the visitors excellent field position. The Crimson and Gray cashed in four plays later when quarterback Blake Rice (North Branford, CT) found running back Connor Field (Granby, CT) on a perfectly-executed wheel route for a 31-yard touchdown pass to give WPI a 21-7 lead.
WPI parlayed a pair of Norwich interceptions into touchdowns to put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter. Immediately after a WPI offsides on a fourth and short that kept the ball with the Cadets, Garcia picked off the next pass and returned it 42 yards for his second touchdown of the season. Senior Aaron Hartford (Norwell, MA) then notched an interception deep in Norwich territory on the next drive and McAllen punched it in from 10 yards out to make it 35-7 just 4:43 into the final stanza.
Kyle Havey (North Reading, MA) added a fourth WPI interception later in the fourth quarter and Field went 63 yards on the ground for his second score of the game with just 2:17 remaining to account for game's final points. The touchdown pushed WPI's season total to 337, eclipsing the old school single season record of 330 established back in 1992.
McAllen's finished the day with 132 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. The sophomore now has 1,322 rushing yards this season, surpassing the previous record of 1,283 set by Hall of Famer Jason Wooley in 1990. McAllen's single season touchdown total is now 16, tying him with four others for second in school history, and career-wise he reached the 2,000 yard milestone and now sits ninth all-time with 2,023 yard despite playing just two seasons. Saturday was his seventh game of 100 rushing yards or more this season and ninth in his career.
Rice finished his day 12-for-23 passing for 108 yards and one touchdown. Field rushed for 83 yards while also leading the way with 41 receiving yards. Francis Lubega (Ashland, MA) sparked the defense with a pair of first half sacks among his 3.5 tackles for loss on the day. Nick Ostrowski (Carlton, MA) accounted for WPI's other sack and posted a game-high 11 tackles while Blayne Merchant (Sanderson, FL) and Malafronte both notched seven tackles and Havey added six.
Connor Bourque (Goffstown, NH) had a strong day on the ground for the Cadets, rushing for 106 yards on 20 carries while Aurelia and Isaac Houston (Berwick, ME) registered 39 and 38 yards of receiving respectively. Brasean Stewart (Bronx, NY) recorded 10 tackles for the hosts while Angelo Cofield (Lithonia, GA) added nine stops and Jalen Belle-Walker (Lithonia, GA) had a sack among his six tackles. Porter had all three of Norwich's interceptions.
For the game WPI enjoyed a 316-239 edge in total yards had a slight 10 second advantage in time of possession. The game featured seven turnovers with each team throwing three interception and Norwich also with a lost fumble on a muffed punt.