MANCHESTER, N.H. – Freshman QB Andrew Murphy (Franklin, Mass.) threw for a school-record 430 yards as the Saint Anselm College football team nearly pulled the upset against first-place American International College, but fell, 37-34, Friday night under the lights at Grappone Stadium on Senior Night.
The Hawks drop to 1-8 on the season, including 1-7 in Northeast-10 play, while the Yellow Jackets, who entered the night in a first-place tie atop the NE-10 standings, improve to 7-1 on the season and a perfect 7-0 in the league.
Murphy erased the previous school record of 408 yards that was set by Michael Pierce against Pace University on Sept. 25, 2010. Murphy also toppled the program record for completions as he connected on 47 of his career-high 66 attempts, breaking the mark of 37 that was held by both Shane Dinagen (Oct. 16, 2004 at Bryant) and Pierce (Oct. 31, 2009 vs. New Haven). Murphy's 71.2 completion percentage is tops in program history of anyone with more than 45 attempts. The reigning Northeast-10 Rookie of the Week threw three touchdowns and was intercepted four times, while also rushing for 18 yards and another score.
Junior WR Justin Bernard (Cambridge, Mass.) recorded 12 receptions for 85 yards and three touchdowns, which matched his career high that he set last week at Merrimack. Junior WR Eric Feehan (Bedford, N.H.) posted career bests in both catches (11) and receiving yards (117). Feehan had previously caught 10 passes earlier this year at Assumption on Sept. 7 and racked up 114 receiving yards at AIC on Oct. 8 of last season. Sophomore WR Ahkeen Williams (DeWitt, N.Y.) reeled in a career-high 11 passes for 92 yards, while senior WR Craig Dennis (Atlantic City, N.J.) totaled 84 yards and matched his career best with eight catches. It marks the first time ever that three Saint Anselm receivers have each recorded at least 10 catches in the same game and the first time ever that four receivers have each amassed 80-plus yards in the same contest.
AIC took the opening kickoff and drove 57 yards in just five plays, with a Kevin Arduino 24-yard pass to Cal Brownridge giving it a 7-0 lead after a Daniel Backx extra point just 2:16 into the contest.
Arduino made it 14-0 with 3:55 remaining in the opening quarter when he capped a 14-play, 95-yard drive by hooking up with Gary Farley for the 14-yard score. Backx added the point-after.
After the Hawks missed a field goal with one second to play in the first quarter, Arduino ran one in himself from nine yards out to put the finishing touches on a 13-play, 80-yard drive that made it 21-0 after a Backx PAT with 9:18 to go in the second quarter.
Junior DB Joey Polverini (East Longmeadow, Mass.) then stalled the Yellow Jackets' next drive as he intercepted Arduino at the Saint Anselm 24-yard line. Three plays later, however, Murphy was picked off by Will Garcia and AIC had the ball at the Saint Anselm 35. It took the Yellow Jackets just four plays to make up the distance as Arduino hit Farley again for a seven-yard score that was followed by a Backx extra point to make it 28-0 with 1:42 left in the first half.
The Hawks responded with a nine-play, 75-yard drive that lasted just 1:22 and ended when Murphy found Bernard in the end zone from nine yards out. Senior P/K Shea Cerio (Canastota, N.Y.) kicked the extra point and Saint Anselm went into the locker room trailing 28-7. Murphy went 7-for-9 for 75 yards on the drive, hitting Bernard three times for 33 yards.
Saint Anselm received the kickoff to open the second half and needed just 2:09 to move the ball 61 yards in seven plays. Murphy's 19-yard completion to Dennis moved the offense into AIC territory before Williams' seven-yard reception, with a 15-yard penalty tacked on to the end of it, put the Hawks inside the 20. Junior RB Keith Charles (Laurel, Md.) powered his way forward for a nine-yard run that moved the ball inside the 10 and after a pair of short completions, Charles ran in from a yard out for the score. Cerio booted the extra point and the Hawks cut it to 28-14 with 12:41 on the clock in the third quarter.
The Hawks went three-and-out on their next drive, but Markell Rice botched the punt return and freshman Carroll Bailey (Clinton, Mass.) dove on the loose ball at the AIC 26-yard line. The offense moved all the way down to the 3-yard line, but Murphy was intercepted in the end zone by Mike Ford, who returned it 74 yards to the Saint Anselm 26. A negative rush, a holding penalty and a sack moved the Yellow Jackets out of field goal range and they were forced to punt.
Rice then made up for his fumble as he intercepted Murphy and brought the ball down to the Saint Anselm 19. The Hawks' defense held strong again and forced the field goal attempt. Backx knocked his 36-yard try through and AIC led 31-14 with 1:28 left in the third quarter.
The Hawks answered with a 12-play, 79-yard drive that was capped by Murphy's three-yard run and made it 31-21 after Cerio's kick just 2:04 into the final quarter.
After the teams traded punts, Bryant Fitzgerald ripped off a 63-yard run down the left sideline to give the Yellow Jackets a 37-21 lead with 8:38 to go in the game. Backx' extra point was blocked.
Saint Anselm quickly responded as Murphy hit on seven of his eight passes to highlight a 10-play, 72-yard drive that culminated in a two-yard touchdown catch by Bernard that made it 37-27 with 5:15 to go. The Hawks went for the two-point conversion to make it a one-score game, but Murphy's pass slipped through the hands of his receiver.
AIC recovered the ensuing onside kick at its own 44-yard line, but went three-and-out and was forced to punt. Freshman WR Caleb Bettis (Watertown, N.Y.) came up with a monster 44-yard return to 50-yard line and, following a 15-yard personal foul penalty, the Hawks took over at the AIC 35. Murphy went 4-for-6 over the next 35 seconds, including an eight-yard touchdown throw to Bernard that sliced the deficit to 37-34 following Cerio's extra point with 2:47 on the clock.
The Saint Anselm defense forced another three-and-out on the Yellow Jackets after another onside kick and the Hawks' offense got the ball back at its own five-yard line with 1:06 left. After an offsides penalty bumped the Hawks up to the 10, Murphy found Charles for a 24-yard catch-and-run that put the ball at the 34. Following an incomplete pass to Williams, however, Murphy was picked by Rice at the 50 to seal the win for the Yellow Jackets.
The Hawks outgained AIC, 464-437, including 430-191 through the air.
Seniors Dennis, Cerio, Bent, DB Tyler Crawford (Lamoine, Maine), LB Brendan Timmons (Franklin, Mass.), OL P.J. Senatore (Norwell, Mass.) and DL Tyler Williams (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) were all honored in a ceremony on the field prior to the game.
The Hawks return to action Saturday, Nov. 3 at noon when they wrap up their regular season by traveling to take on Seton Hill University at Offutt Field. Saint Anselm will earn a berth into Northeast-10 Championship Weekend play with just one Pace University loss over the next two games. Stay up-to-date with the latest news, including game previews and recaps, directly from the Saint Anselm College athletic department by friending us on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/STAHawks) and following us on Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/STAHawks).