Marist Remains Undefeated in Conference Play With Win Over Dayton

After a complete domination of the Stetson Hatters last weekend, Marist (3-2, 3-0) travelled to western Ohio to take on PFL rival , The University of Dayton (3-3, 2-2). The Red Foxes played a clean game. Nothing extremely flashy, but by showing composure and taking advantage of the Flyers’ mistakes, they were able to come out on top 20-17.

Redshirt senior Mekhai Johnson’s heels were clicking today, as the running back dazzled on all of his touches. On the Red Foxes’ third drive of the game, Johnson rushed for 51 yards on three carries, including a huge 33-yard touchdown run where he found a hole and outran the Flyers’ secondary on the outside to give the Red Foxes a 10-3 lead. The team ended up with 116 yards rushing, getting chunks during important moments of the game when they needed first downs. 

Special teams is an area that Marist coach Jim Parady believes is key to win, and they were absolutely flawless today. Teams are getting weary of kicking to redshirt junior Dwayne Menders, and Dayton continued that trend today. After a touchdown drive where the Flyers made big plays with their star running back and reigning PFL Player of the Week Jake Chisholm, the Flyers kicked the ball to the opposite side of Menders. Unfortunately for them, the player on the other side happened to be Johnson, who blazed by the initial storm of Flyers and ran to the outside, where he got a key block from Menders. 

“It’s so uplifting for the sideline when you have a huge special teams play,” said Parady, “it just changes momentum so much.”

The play entered the stat sheet as a 91-yard kickoff return touchdown, and it took away all momentum from the Flyers and got the Foxes all wired. Even on special teams coverage, the Red Foxes weren’t missing their tackles, so they didn’t give up any valuable field position.

Marist also got some major assistance from Dayton throughout the game as they seemed to be undisciplined. The Red Foxes were able to gain major penalty yardage to sustain drives, and were even able to unceremoniously end a few of Dayton’s drives off of key penalties. In the third quarter, Dayton had an unnecessary roughness and unsportsmanlike conduct calls on the same play, giving Marist nearly 30 yards on the play leading to a Red Fox field goal. In total, Dayton had 11 penalties for 115 yards while Marist only had two penalties for 11 yards.

After the game, coach Parady stressed the importance of Marist being the more disciplined team, and that could arguably be the deciding factor in their recent victory as well as the reason why the team has been competitive this year. “If you look at where we are in relation to our opponents…we are gaining 80 yards per game on penalties, so that and turnovers are reasons why we have had some of the success that we have had.”

On defense, the Red Foxes during the first three quarters were continuing their trend of great play after only allowing three points against Stetson. Redshirt senior Teddy Wright had 10 total tackles, and made a key interception on Dayton’s third drive, which led to Johnson’s first touchdown run. The linebackers all played well, all shedding blocks on the outside and making sure-handed tackles, not allowing Dayton players to break away. 

Coach Parady was especially pleased with how the defense handled Jake Chisholm throughout the game. “He does not go down on first contact…he bounces off people, he has great balance,
he has very good vision, but we were able to keep him down,” he said. “They got him 24 or 25 touches so to limit him to what he did…we did pretty well.”

Marist was also able to generate some pressure, and while they didn’t force any sacks, the pressure forced Dayton quarterback Jack Cook to throw the ball inaccurately on a few occasions, including the pick to Wright which came from an overthrown ball because of pressure.

“We took [Cook] out of his comfort zone,” said coach Parady, “We took away some of the edge on him…that took away things that they like to do…the front 3 really did a nice job of getting him
out of the pocket and making him move laterally.”

Redshirt senior quarterback Austin Day had a quiet day, going 13-26 for 116 yards, but he didn’t need to have a big day for Marist to win. With Dayton shooting themselves in the foot the way they were and the way the Red Foxes were running the football, Marist had control of their drives. Once again this week, they were able to successfully sustain their drives, killing time in the process and not giving Dayton more opportunities with the football. However, with Marist up 20-10 at the beginning of the fourth quarter, Austin Day had a key dropped snap at midfield, which led to a Marist punt, giving the Dayton players some life.

After this, Dayton started to find rhythm on offense, and this was not the time Marist wanted to see Dayton driving. Cook threw completion after completion, finding open receivers all over the field. At Marist’s 1-inch line on 4th down, Chisholm ran in for a touchdown to make it a 3-point game. Marist got the ball back and punted again, but then the Marist defense stepped up. As Dayton crossed midfield, it looked like Dayton was on the verge of another huge drive. On 3rd and 3, near Marist’s 40-yard line, Arthur Pinckney made an incredible effort play, tugging onto the jersey of Chisholm, holding on for dear life. While he didn’t finish the tackle, it slowed Chisholm just enough for a mob of Pinckney’s teammates to complete the play. This led to a fourth down, where Dayton had to go for it because they were too far away for a field goal. Cook threw an incomplete pass giving Marist the opportunity to burn the clock, however they didn’t completely ice the game just yet.

Dayton had an opportunity to get the ball back with 24 seconds left, but their punt returner muffed the punt after a collision from his own teammate, allowing Marist to get the ball back and get into the best formation in all of football – victory formation.

This victory formation had to be particularly special to coach Parady, as he got a
win in his 300th game as a head coach. Throughout his reign as head football
coach he has emphasized culture and having a mentality of what he calls
“togetherness”, and that message oozed during his postgame remarks, thanking
his coaching staff and players. “Everybody’s a part of it,” Parady said, “I’m
fortunate I’ve had [cornerbacks coach Larry Riley] and [kicking coach Tom Kelly].
They’ve been here the whole time I’ve been here and [defensive coordinator
Scott Rumsey] has been here a good portion of it and most of the staff has been
with me for almost half of the journey, so it’s great to be able to share it with all
of those guys.”

It wasn’t the prettiest of victories, but Marist will gladly add that win to their record books to stay undefeated in the PFL. The Red Foxes will be back in Tenney Stadium next Saturday, Oct. 23 for a noon conference game against Morehead State.

Edited by Mackenzie Meaney

Photo Courtesy of Jonathan Kinane

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