In a breezy Saturday afternoon matchup against the last-place Valparaiso Crusaders, Marist came out on top, 35-24.
Just one week removed from setting the program record for most passing yards in a single game with 440 and tying the program record for touchdown passes in a single game with five in the overtime win over Davidson, Quarterback Austin Day was not dressed for Saturday’s game.
“It’s just a violation of team rules. He will be back next week,” Head Coach Jim Parady said.
Instead, redshirt sophomore Jacob Hallenbeck got the nod. He filled in well, going for 15-25 with 215 yards and four touchdown passes.
“I thought he played well. I thought he made good decisions,” said Parady. “He threw for four touchdowns. He handled the offense very well and distributed the ball to where it was supposed to go.”
The Marist offense struggled to begin the game, specifically with several unsportsmanlike penalties.
“We need to keep our composure. It shows on the field. We get buried into our emotions and you see the flags start coming in, so we need to work as a team to reduce the penalties and trash talking on the field,” said redshirt junior wide receiver Anthony Olivencia.
Marist’s defense made up for it, keeping the Red Foxes at a 3-0 deficit at the end of the first quarter.
Marist scored on their first drive of the second quarter when Hallenbeck found wide receiver Juston Christian for a 25-yard touchdown pass off a play action. The Red Foxes had their first lead of the game at 7-3.
The offensive line began to open running lanes for running backs Mekhai Johnson and Darryn Jordan. Jordan and Johnson combined on the ground game for Marist to be successful and move the chains.
“It all starts with the offensive line. They do not get as much credit but they’re the unsung heroes of our offense,” said Olivencia.
The Crusaders reclaimed the lead when redshirt sophomore quarterback Chris Duncan perfectly hit wide receiver Griffin Norberg in stride down the sideline for a 66-yard touchdown pass. Duncan’s perfect pass to Norberg gave Valparaiso the lead at 10-7 with just under eight minutes left in the half.
Marist responded when Hallenbeck found Olivencia down the sideline for a 41-yard touchdown pass, taking a 14-10 lead with six minutes left in the half.
Olivencia had 139 yards and a touchdown on five receptions. Christian had 52 yards and two touchdowns on three receptions. His two touchdowns tied a single season program record for 12 receiving touchdowns.
Olivencia had another big catch down the sideline to set up Marist in the red zone. Hallenbeck then found Christian in the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown pass. The Red Foxes increased their lead to 21-10 with 27 seconds left in the half.
Following a fumble recovery by Joe Petro, Marist was able to increase their lead from 14-10 to 28-10 within eight seconds right before halftime.
Valparaiso defensive end Jesse Studyvin forced running back Dazhon Miller to fumble. Valparaiso inside linebacker Drew Snouffer recovered the fumble and ran it back for a 50-yard fumble recovery touchdown. The Crusaders fight back and decrease the Marist lead to 28-17 with 12 minutes left in the game.
It was a very shaky start of the second half for Marist after a fumble that resulted in a touchdown and a controversial call that gave Valparaiso great field position, but thanks to redshirt sophomore Justice Seales, Marist escaped the third quarter still leading 28-17.
Following an interception by redshirt senior cornerback Brandon Miller, Hallenbeck found redshirt freshman tight end Sean Gaffney, who replaced the injured Kanda, in the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown pass to give Marist a 35-17 lead with 5:49 left in the game.
A Crusader touchdown reception by Deuce Larose made it 35-24 Marist with 42 seconds left in the game. Valparaiso recovered their onside kick, but Duncan was intercepted by Miller again to seal Marist’s fourth straight win, and fifth straight PFL win.
This five-game win streak ties the program record that was previously set in 2009 and 2013.
“Our guys are really hungry,” Olivencia said. “I believe when we were 1-4 we were ranked one of the worst teams in the country. That really fueled our guys and they wanted to be better and motivated us a lot in practice and games.”
Marist’s success on Saturday came with a significant cost. Johnson was injured on a play after making contact with a Valparaiso defender. He remained on the sideline for the rest of the game and did not return.
Tight end Jon Kanda was also injured on a play. After being looked at by the training staff on the sidelines with an apparent shoulder injury, Kanda would not return to the game.
Wide receiver and punt returner Ethan Carpenter was injured when he was hit during an attempted punt return. He needed help to get off the field and could not put any weight on his left leg.
“I do not have any [updates] right now. They saw the doctor after the game. They will be in the training room tomorrow morning getting treatment. We will get the report from our training room staff by noon tomorrow and we will have a better idea of where they are and their recovery,” said Parady.
The Red Foxes are in a two-way tie for second with Stetson, while San Diego remains unbeaten in the conference. Marist will travel to Iowa to play the Drake University Bulldogs, who are 5-3 overall and 4-2 in conference play.