PAXTON, Mass. – An improbable comeback by Gallaudet University ended in the third overtime Saturday when junior defensive back Tony Tatum (Gardendale, Ala.) came down with his second interception of the season to give the Bison a thrilling 48-40 victory on the road against Anna Maria College. Gallaudet survived its Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) opener but not with ease as both teams had chances to win the game multiple times. The AMCATS suffered defeat for a 23rd time since the program's inception three years ago.
Gallaudet (2-2, 1-0 ECFC) scored the game's first 13 points and then proceeded to turn the ball over three consecutive times in the second quarter and twice to begin the third quarter which turned into three Anna Maria touchdowns. The AMCATS (0-4, 0-2) scored 34 unanswered points before the Bison mounted a miraculous comeback of their own and scored three fourth quarter touchdowns to send the game into overtime.
In the first overtime period, the Bison were on offense first and scored on a Michael Hantge (Hutchinson, Minn.) four-yard run to cap an 8-play drive. Sophomore kicker Jeremy Cormier (Methuen, Mass.) missed the point after attempt as Gallaudet led 40-34. Anna Maria quickly found itself in a fourth and 11 scenario at the Gallaudet 26 but quarterback Santino Simone (20-for-36, 316 yards, five touchdowns, three interceptions) was able to hit Gregory Caldwell for a touchdown to tie the game. AMCAT kicker Jamal Mitchell came out to make the extra-point kick and win the game but Gallaudet blocked his attempt. The ball ended up in the end zone where Anna Maria recovered what was thought to be a two-point conversion but the call was overturned after the referees discussed the play and explained an offensive team cannot move the ball forward on a blocked extra-point attempt.
Anna Maria started the second overtime period and saw its drive stall at the 8-yard line and sent Mitchell in for a 25-yard field goal attempt, which he missed wide left. The door was open for Gallaudet to win the game as the Bison took the field. Junior quarterback Gabriel Paulone (Fishers, Ind.) threw back-to-back incomplete passes before he hit sophomore wide receiver Nick Elstad (Colorado Springs, Colo.) for 14 yards on 4th and seven. AMCAT sophomore linebacker Jordan Koehler (15 tackles) came up with two big tackles in the backfield to push the Bison back to the 13-yard line on fourth down. Cormier trotted out to attempt a 29-yard field goal to win the game. His kick sailed through the air but clanked off the right upright to send the game to a third overtime.
Paulone (11-for-18, 114 yards, one touchdown) and company wasted little time on their possession as the signal caller ran 10 yards, handed the ball to Elstad (10 carries, 29 yards) for a four-yard pickup and then called his own number as he ran 11 yards into the end zone for the go-ahead score. NCAA rules state in the third overtime period teams must go for two-points after a score. Paulone ran in to convert the two-point conversion and give the Bison a 48-40 lead. Simone gained two yards on the ensuing possession then threw two incomplete passes before he threw up a pass that Tatum came down with to end the exhilarating contest.
"This year things haven't always gone our way as we have lost some close games but today our guys found a way to get the job done," said second year Gallaudet head coach Chuck Goldstein. "It was by far one of the most exciting games I ever been a part of. This team stayed together and gave it their all and it was their effort that put us over the top in the end!"
Things did not look great for the Bison when they trailed 34-13 with 10:51 left in the fourth quarter. Simone orchestrated three consecutive touchdown drives the latter of which was setup on a 70-yard pass to David Marsh (four receptions, 124 yards) and a 12-yard touchdown run by Simone. Mitchell kicked off to the Bison where freshman Quentin Williams (Chesapeake, Va.) fielded the ball at the Gallaudet 29 and raced 71 yards the other way to the end zone to give the Buff and Blue the spark they needed. Williams finished with a game-high 163 all-purpose yards as he ran the ball eight times for 69 yards, caught one pass for four yards and racked up 90 return yards.
The Bison defense forced its first punt of the fourth quarter on a three and out for the AMCATS, who only used two minutes, as Gallaudet got the ball back at the its own 38 with 8:27 left. GU marched down the field and scored quickly when Paulone found Elstad (four receptions, 62 yards) for a 13-yard touchdown pass to complete a 7-play, 62-yard drive in a minute, 43 seconds.
Gallaudet got its second big break in the fourth quarter when junior Shelby Bean (Arvada, Colo.) kicked off to Anna Maria. Bean's 48-yard kick landed at AMCAT 38 where Ken Wood (11 rushes, 38 yards) coughed up the ball as Gallaudet's Akeem Guidry (Baton Rouge, La.) came up with the fumble at the 37. The Bison were back in business down 34-27 with 6:36 left in regulation. Anna Maria stood strong and denied the Bison a first down on 4th and 2 at the 29.
The AMCATS had the chance to chew up some of the play clock as they took over with 4:52 left. They marched down the field and converted two first downs and forced the Bison to use all three of their timeouts. On 3rd and 3 at the Gallaudet 29, Simone had his pass intercepted by junior linebacker Tom Pangia (Hammonton, N.J.), who came down with a brilliant one-handed grab and popped to his feet and dashed 61 yards to the AMCAT 19 with 1:24 left.
Paulone's first two passes were incomplete but on third and long he hit Elstad for a gain of 17 yards as he was brought down at the 2-yard line. Paulone (11 carries, 76 yards) ran in for the touchdown on the next play. Cormier made the extra-point and the game was tied at 34 with 42 seconds left.
Anna Maria had a final shot as the AMCAT drive started at their own 39 with 37 seconds left. Simone ran 13 yards to the Anna Maria 46 and took a timeout with 10 seconds left. Simone then hit Dom Concepcion for a 7-yard gain and then connected with Josh Sundquist for an 18-yard gain as both receivers got out of bounds to save the game clock. Simone threw up a pass, as time expired, from the Gallaudet 29-yard line but Bison freshman linebacker Jaris Alleyne (Waldorf, Md.) came down with the interception at the Gallaudet 5.
In the first quarter, Gallaudet got on the scoreboard on its second possession as Williams ran 28 yards for the touchdown as the Bison led 7-0 midway through the first. The GU defense forced a quick three and out which resulted in an AMCAT punt that junior Phillip Hayes (Baton Rouge, La.) ran back 29 yards. Anna Maria was slapped with a penalty that pushed the Bison to the AMCAT 25-yard line. Two plays later, Hayes rolled in from 20 yards out for the score. Cormier's extra-point attempt failed as the Bison led 13-0.
The wheels fell off for the Bison the next two quarters as they fumbled twice and were picked off once in successive drives as they trailed 14-13 at halftime. In the third, the Bison fumbled two more times on subsequent drives and then punted and turned the ball over on downs as the game went into the riveting fourth quarter.
GU gained 335 yards on the ground and piled up 449 yards of total offense. The Bison limited the AMCATS to just 125 yards on the ground while Simone threw for 316 yards. The two teams combined for 890 yards of offense. Turnovers played a key role in the game as Gallaudet fumbled five times (lost four) and had one interception thrown while Anna Maria put the ball on the ground three times (lost two) and threw three interceptions on a cold but dry day.
Gallaudet returns home to host Husson University (0-4, 0-1) on Saturday, October 8, at noon in an ECFC contest at Hotchkiss Field.