Marist football travelled all the way to Indiana for their first Pioneer Football League game in almost two years. The Red Foxes secured the win in terrific fashion, with an overtime victory against Valparaiso University, winning 27-24.
The win improves Marist’s overall record to 1-2, as well as their series record with Valparaiso. The victory also marked the return of senior quarterback Austin Day, who was out last week in the homecoming game versus Bryant University.
Tied with 9:56 to go in the fourth quarter, Valparaiso rallied for two commanding drives in the fourth quarter after a blocked punt by the Valparaiso special teams. After much back and forth between the two teams, Marist was handed the ball with 1:22 remaining. However, the Valparaiso defense came up big with two sacks and were handed possession, but unable to complete a field goal in the final three seconds. This forced the game into overtime where the Red Foxes were able to execute a stop on the Valparaiso offense.
“That was a really tough moment for us,” said Head Coach Jim Parady, referring to the blocked punt by Valparaiso, “We had bad field position for the next couple possessions in the fourth quarter, and we were just hanging on.”
After the Red Fox defense was able to hold Valsparaiso to a field goal in overtime, the offense took the field at the 25 yard line with a fresh set of downs, needing a field goal to tie and a touchdown to win the PFL opener for the Red Foxes. After receiving the snap and airing it down field, Day stayed collective in the pocket and aired it down field for Mazzella, leaping over a defender in double coverage. Not only did this secure the victory for the Red Foxes, but it marked the first reception of Mazzella’s collegiate career.
“We had actually called that play early in the game, and they had given us a look that we didn’t like so we called time out,” said Parady. “We were fortunate enough to get the look that we liked, end to end and we executed it.”
Day managed the offense very well in his return, going 10-19 with 149 yards and two touchdowns. Day’s touchdown passes proved to be the X-factor of the game. Along with the overtime pass to Mazzella to win the game, he threw a 36 yard lob to the endzone to redshirt freshman receiver Brett Landis on single coverage, establishing his command of the offense.
“He has a deeper understanding of the game and managed the game very well,” explained Parady. “We only threw the ball 19 times, and he got us into the right play 98% of the time getting into the run game.”
The first time on the field for offense and defense set the early tone for the Red Foxes. Their first drive started strong with some immediate momentum, completed a 75 yard drive after a 3rd and 11 completion to redshirt junior receiver Dwayne Menders, and finished off the drive with a rush to the fullback for touchdown. Valparaiso was unable to complete a first down and started out with a punt, however they were able to answer on their next drive after forcing a Marist punt and getting a quick touchdown to tie it up in the first quarter.
Two crucial turnovers by the Valparaiso offense gave the Red Foxes the lead for most of the game. Valpo quarterback Ben Nimz started to find his tempo with the receiving core in the remaining seconds of the first half, also having until a big interception by redshirt junior Clay Fields stopped Valparaiso’s push to score to end the half and kept Marist up by six. Another big stop was after Nimz threw a 44 yard pass to his top target, senior Ollie Reese, which was picked off by redshirt junior Teddy Wright. Wright ended the game with a team high 11 tackles, including eight solo tackles as well as a sack.
“Their quarterbacks had thrown eight interceptions so we thought turnovers were going to be a key [factor] for us,” Coach Parady said when asked about the defensive highlights of the game.”
The rush offense for Marist was the driving factor for the Red Foxes lead in the first half, as redshirt junior Hunter Cobb topped off an efficient performance with a big 45 yard rushing touchdown. Cobb contributed two touchdowns and over 148 scrimmage yards to lead the rushing game, totaling to the offense’s 200 rushing yards on the day.
After a high energy road win, Marist will return home to face Stetson University on Saturday, Oct. 9. It is the Red Foxes’ first PFL home game of the season, and will kick off at noon.
Edited by Mackenzie Meaney
Photo Courtesy of Marist Athletics