KINGS POINT, N.Y. – The Gallaudet University football team suffered a heartbreaking loss to the United States Merchant Marine Academy on Saturday afternoon as the Mariners scored a touchdown with one second left on the clock to steal the victory away from the Bison, 35-34, before 1,012 at Tomb Field.
Bison senior quarterback Jimmy Gardner (St. Augustine, Fla.) scored his second touchdown in the fourth quarter when he ran in from two yards out to give GU a 32-28 lead with 1:10 left in regulation. Gallaudet (0-1) converted the 2-point conversion to increase the lead to six.
USMMA (1-0) then drove 59 yards on 10 plays in just over a minute to win the game. Mariner quarterback Derrick Ventre (18-for-33, 177 yards) sailed a high pass to the left corner of the end zone as the final seconds ticked off the clock. Mariner receiver Chaise Dunn came down with the 11-yard pass to tie the game at 34. Kicker Richard Grennen made his fifth extra-point of the game to seal the win.
“We had plenty of opportunities to win it,” said Gallaudet’s Chuck Goldstein after his collegiate head coaching debut. “We gave a great effort on both sides of the ball. We are well ahead of where we were last year. We need to regroup because we have nine more opportunities to win.”
The loss ends a three-game winning streak for the Bison that dated back to October 24, 2009. Gallaudet lost to USMMA 38-14 last season at home.
Prior to the final minute of regulation the Bison had controlled the tempo and pace of the fourth quarter. Gallaudet had two possessions in the decisive fourth and milked nearly 10 minutes off the clock en route to reclaiming the lead.
USMMA running back Karl Heimbrock (155 rushing yards) scored his third touchdown of the game two minutes into the fourth quarter to give the Mariners a 28-20 lead. GU needed to answer as the Merchant Marine Academy had scored 21 unanswered points in the second half.
Bison returner Phillip Hayes (Baton Rouge, La.) fielded the kick-off, broke several tackles and scampered 70 yards down to the Mariner 16-yard line. Five plays later, Gardner ran in from five yards out to cut the lead to 28-26. The Bison opted for the 2-point conversion to try and knot the game at 28 but Gardner’s run was stopped short of the end zone.
Gallaudet’s special teams struggled, especially at the kicking game, as the Mariners received great field position all day. USMMA’s average field position for the game was at its own 47-yard line.
The Mariners started its second to last drive of the game at Gallaudet’s 37-yard line after a penalty and a short kick to boot. USMMA was set to add more points to its lead as it sat at the 4-yard line with 8:55 left in the game. Heimbrock was hit in the backfield and coughed up the ball as junior defensive lineman Shawn Holder (Lemon Grove, Calif.) came up with the fumble.
The Bison then turned in their longest drive of the game (94 yards on 16 plays) which ended with a Gardner 2-yard plunge into the end zone. GU had chewed up seven minutes and 39 seconds off the clock. Senior running back Cole Johnson (Eden Prairie, Minn.) converted the 2-point conversion. Gallaudet converted 2-of-5 2-point conversions and did not attempt an extra-point kick.
Gardner had a career day passing the ball as he completed 4-of-9 attempts for 86 yards and one touchdown. Gardner threw a 26-yard touchdown to sophomore Ryne Worsham (Chicago, Ill.) at the end of the second quarter to give the Bison a 14-7 lead. Gardner ran the ball 15 times for 40 yards and two touchdowns in the loss.
Hayes led the Bison ground attack as he recorded 103 yards on 11 carries. He gained over half of that total on a 59-yard reverse that resulted in a touchdown to start the second half for the Bison. GU led 20-7 with 11:32 left in the third quarter. The Hayes touchdown was set-up after Gallaudet safety Shelby Bean (Arvada, Colo.) intercepted Ventre at the Bison 40.
USMMA got on the board first when Heimbrock scored his first touchdown of the game late in the first quarter. GU outscored USMMA 14-0 in the second quarter and took a 14-7 lead into halftime.
Bison sophomore running back Ryan Bonheyo (Frederick, Md.) made a splash in his Gallaudet debut as he scored the team’s first touchdown of 2010 on a 6-yard run with 5:04 left in the second quarter. A Mariner fumble, one of three in the game, allowed the Bison to add another touchdown before the half.
Gallaudet, a top 10 rushing offense last season in Division III, racked up 294 yards on the ground and had 380 yards of total offense. Junior fullback Mike Gimeli (Deerpark, N.Y.) had 79 yards on 18 carries while Johnson tallied 52 yards and Bonheyo added 20 yards.
USMMA gained one more yard then Gallaudet when it came to total offensive yards (381). In fact, the 381 total offensive yards is the most a Bison defense had allowed in 10 games since the Mariners totaled 398 yards in last year’s season-opener at Hotchkiss Field. Heimbrock’s 155 rushing yards are the most the Bison have surrendered in at least two years. Last season the most a running back gained on the Bison was 137.
Sophomore linebacker Tom Pangia (Hammonton, N.J.) led all Bison defenders with 14 tackles. Junior transfer linebacker Ty Primous (Lynwood, Ill.) had a nice debut with seven tackles, one for a loss of two yards.
The Bison will next face the Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trade club team in Media, Pa., on September 11.