WASHINGTON - The Gallaudet University football team got off to a slow start here Saturday afternoon as it went head-to-head against Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) rival SUNY Maritime at Hotchkiss Field on Senior Day.
Maritime (6-4, 4-3 ECFC) jumped out to an early three-score lead in the first 13 minutes as Gallaudet found itself in a hole they would need to dig out of for the remainder of the game. The Bison (2-8, 1-6 ECFC) scored three touchdowns, in less then three minutes, at the end of the third quarter before eventually falling 31-28 before a crowd of 476.
Maritime added to its 21-7 halftime lead early in the third quarter when the Privateers scored on a 16-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Joseph Butterworth (22-for-37, 205 yards, three touchdowns) to Christian Castle at the 11:09 mark. The game was slipping away from Gallaudet's grasp after Matthew Murphy booted home a 24-yard field goal midway through the third quarter as the Privateers led 31-7.
Gallaudet's offense struggled throughout the game as it went three-and-out on nine different occasions ending in a punt.
Momentum swayed after the seventh three-and-out by the Bison offense. Butterworth made a mistake on 3rd and 22 when freshman defensive back Devin Steed (Acworth, Ga.) intercepted the errant pass on the Gallaudet 36. Steed got on his horse and zigged and zagged down the field. As Steed got to the Maritime 30 he hurdled over a diving Butterworth, the last defender, as he darted into the end zone for the 64-yard interception returned for a touchdown.
A strong defensive stand by the Bison forced Maritime to punt for only the fourth time in the game. Privateer punter John Arny was backed up inside the Maritime 20 when he went to punt but was greeted by sophomore defensive back Louie Akuffo (Bowie Md.), who blocked the punt. Freshman linebacker Mauricio Orozco (Clinton, Md.) jumped on the loose ball on the Maritime 3. On the very next play, junior Joell Dixon (Clinton Md.) stormed into the end zone for his first collegiate touchdown. After a Jacob Guertler (Staunton, Va.) extra point, the Privateers lead was cut to 10, 31-21.
The Privateers looked to run down the clock on their next drive but tenacious defense brought up a third down in which Maritime elected to throw the ball. Senior defensive back Carneilus Smith (Chesapeake, Va.) anticipated the throw and cut in front of the receiver to intercept Butterworth and return the ball 61 yard for a Bison touchdown. GU had turned the game around with three scores in two minutes and 35 seconds.
A 24-point lead had melted down to three, 31-28, as the teams went into the fourth quarter.
Maritime focused on running out the clock in the fourth quarter and put together two drives that chewed up a combined nine minutes and 19 seconds and ended on downs. Both drives ended in the Gallaudet red zone but Maritime elected to go for it on fourth down instead of padding its lead with a field goal. GU only had two possessions in the fourth quarter and both drives were three-and-out and ended with a Tony Libit (Deerbrook, Wis.) punt.
The Privateers' last drive closed out the game as they went 47 yards on eight plays and used up four minutes and 16 seconds and ventured into the red zone for a seventh time.
SUNY Maritime dominated the first half on both sides of the ball. The Privateers reached the end zone in three of their first four drives of the game. Defensively, the Privateers shut down the Bison in the first half, forcing GU to punt on their first six drives of the game.
After jumping out to a comfortable 21-0 lead, the Bison were able to take advantage of several Maritime miscues.
Freshman running back Spencer Maples (Kempner, Texas) put Gallaudet in scoring position after he recovered a fumble off of a muffed punt by Maritime's kick returner Cardinal Charles. The Bison took advantage of their field position when sophomore quarterback Tony Libit hit freshman running back Elisha Spinosi (Lanham, Md.) on a four-yard touchdown pass.
- Senior linebacker Ryan Santana (Palm Bay, Fla.) posted a career best 18 tackles (12 solo) on Senior Day and had one tackle for a loss of two yards and one quarterback hurry
- Smith matched his career-high with 17 tackles (10 solo), two tackles for a loss of four yards, one pass breakup and one pick six
- Smith now has 11 career interceptions and three interceptions returned for touchdowns, all this season
- Senior linebacker Sean Fenton (Chicago, Ill.) was the third senior with 12 or more tackles as he made 12 tackles (eight solo) and had one pass breakup
- Freshman linebacker Mason Gooch (Mount Sterling, Ky.) recorded GU's lone sack for a loss of five yards
- GU had eight tackles for a loss of 21 yards, five pass breakups, three quarterback hurries, two blocks, two interceptions for 128 yards, one sack for a loss of five yards, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery
- Libit completed 4 of 17 passes for 25 yards and was sacked four times
- Sophomore wide receiver Lawrence Watson (Fayetteville, N.C.) was the team's leading rusher with two end round runs that netted 30 yards
- Libit punted 11 times for 317 yards (28.8 average)
- Gallaudet was outgained 464 to 56 yards of total offense
- Maritime had 25 first downs and logged nearly 40 minutes (time of possession)
- GU scored 21 points off turnovers
Prior to the start of the game, Gallaudet head coach Chuck Goldstein and his staff along with the players paid tribute to this year's senior class. Santana, Fenton and Smith were joined by their family members on the special day. Fenton and Smith are four-year letterwinners. Fenton finished his career with 108 tackles (55 solo), two interceptions, two forced and recovered fumbles and one block. Smith concludes his career with 256 tackles (148 solo), 11 interceptions for 345 yards and three touchdowns, five sacks for a loss of 38 yards. The all-conference honoree also returned 15 kicks for 358 yards and one touchdown. In three seasons, Santana amassed 140 tackles (95 solo), three sacks for a loss of 22 yards and one interception.
This concludes the 2016 season for the Bison as they doubled their win total from a year ago. The young Bison squad played a lot of freshmen and sophomores at key positions and will lean on those players in 2017 to help lead and improve its standing in the ECFC.