NORTHFIELD, Vt. – Norwich University ripped a victory away from Gallaudet University's grasp in the waning seconds Saturday as the Bison fell 10-7 on the road at Sabine Field in front of 749 in a pivotal Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) game between two unbeaten conference foes.
Gallaudet (3-3, 2-1 ECFC) led 7-3 late in the game as the Cadets marched down the field on the eventual game-winning drive. Norwich quarterback Kris Sabourin (6-for-14, 66 yards, one interception) rushed for a 10-yard score with 33 seconds to go in the fourth quarter to give the Cadets (4-3, 4-0) their first lead of the game. Sabourin led the Cadets with 93 rushing yards on 17 carries, which was eight yards less than his average entering the game of 101.17 yards per game. The game-winning drive covered 66 yards on 12 plays and took two minutes and 41 seconds. The Bison had Norwich at the GU 42 yard line on a 4th and 1 but Sabourin completed a two-yard pass to Andrew Fulford to keep the drive alive.
GU had a final crack at tying or winning the game as they began its final drive at its own 47 yard line thanks to a 22 yard kick-off return by freshman Quentin Williams (Chesapeake, Va.). Junior quarterback Anthony Palmer (Unadilla, N.Y.) trotted out and threw two incomplete passes before rushing 10 yards to the Norwich 43 yard line. Palmer threw up one final pass as time expired but the pass fell incomplete as the Cadets celebrated their ninth straight home ECFC victory since the conference began in 2009.
Gallaudet's defense entered today's game ranked No. 1 among 239 NCAA Division III teams in tackles for loss and No. 2 in rushing defense with 48 yards per game allowed. In a matchup with Norwich's sixth-ranked rushing offense (326.83 yards per game), something had to give. The Cadets totaled 268 rushing yards in the win, the most yards the Bison had given up in a game this season. In fact, the 268 rushing yards are more than the Bison surrendered in the first five games this season combined (240 yards). Last season, Norwich totaled 361 yards on the ground against the Bison in a 31-23 victory at Sabine Field.
The game was decided by defense and field position.
Gallaudet opened the scoring with a 50-yard pass from junior quarterback Gabriel Paulone (Fishers, Ind.) to junior wide receiver Ryne Worsham (Chicago, Ill.) late in the first quarter. Worsham led all receivers with 66 yards on two receptions.
The Bison led 7-0 at the half, and were able to hold the Cadets scoreless until less than five minutes remained in the game when Norwich kicker Long Ding connected on a 30-yard field goal with 4:56 left in regulation to cut the GU lead to 7-3.
Following a 3-and-out series and a punt by Gallaudet, Norwich got the ball with 3:14 left in the fourth quarter, and marched 66 yards down the field for the game-winning score.
The Bison were limited to 231 yards of total offense. Paulone completed 3-of-7 passes for 79 yards, including a touchdown and an interception. Williams led the GU ground attack, rushing for 83 yards on 14 attempts. Paulone ran seven times for 39 yards.
GU won the turnover battle 3-1. On the first drive of the game, junior defensive back Tony Tatum (Gardendale, Ala.) forced a fumble on Sabourin that was recovered by sophomore linebacker Matt Harris (Lynchburg, Va.). Tatum also intercepted a pass late in the second quarter and returned it 21 yards. Norwich running back Danny Triplett also fumbled later in the game. Junior linebacker Tom Pangia (Hammonton, N.J.) led all defenders with 15 total tackles, including two for a loss of five yards.
The Bison had two great opportunities to increase their lead in the third quarter. GU drove to the Norwich 19 and 14 yard lines, respectively, on back-to-back drives but turned the ball over on downs due to its lack of a kicking game. GU was at the Cadet 14 yard line but a false start penalty pushed the ball back five yards where Palmer got sacked on the next play, a loss of 13 yards. The next Gallaudet possession the Bison started from their own 39 and returned to the Norwich 14, largely behind the running of Williams. The freshman running back broke out on a 33-yard run but was later stuffed on a 4th and 2 rush at the Norwich 14.
Both teams came into the afternoon carrying three-game winning streaks. GU had won three straight road games since losing to Norwich last year. The Cadets are 15-2 all-time in ECFC play while Gallaudet drops to 9-7. Gallaudet's past eight losses have come by eight or fewer points dating back to last season.
Gallaudet returns home to Hotchkiss Field for the annual Homecoming game when the Bison welcome Becker College (1-6, 1-3) on Saturday, October 22, for a 1:30 p.m. conference game.