Davidson Overwhelms Marist Football in Home Opener

Marist football was set to host their home opener and first PFL matchup of the 2023 season on a Saturday afternoon at Tenney Stadium. With a big opening crowd and perfect football weather, it set the scene for a Marist squad looking to prove they were better than their week one 49-7 loss.

After another early bye week, Marist hadn’t been on the field in two weeks. After a 49-21 loss to Davidson today, the Red Foxes looked like they hadn’t seen a football field all year, as Davidson outplayed Marist on offense, defense, and special teams for the full 60 minutes.

While both offenses were slow to start in the first quarter, Marist looked lost after starting the afternoon with two consecutive three-and-outs. Even though their rushing game was effective against Georgetown on their first drive, the Red Foxes elected to be more pass heavy this time around.

With junior quarterback Brock Bagozzi failing to complete passes with some accuracy issues, careless mistakes resulted on all fronts, with receivers getting tripped up or missing their routes. Though he was sharp on a few deep balls throughout the day, he finished the day just 12-32 on passes and was benched for redshirt sophomore Logan Brabham in the fourth quarter.

“We knew we were going to get a lot of man matchups, and accuracy was going to be very critical,” said head coach Jim Parady. “When those things were presented, we did not take advantage enough in the game.”

Though Davidson’s offense started run-heavy, it started to come together on their second drive. With plenty of read options and motion before the snap,  Davidson utilized five different skill players in the run game to get first downs. Marist linemen started to pick on the rushes after the Wildcats got to the 50-yard line, forcing Davidson to have to convert on third downs.

Then, tragedy struck for Marist. 

With four minutes left attempted some trickery on a play action look for a deep shot to the end zone. Coulter was suddenly swarmed by four lineman on a blitz, and appeared to not have an escape route. Frantically trying to break loose, he sprinted down the right side of the line of scrimmage in order to escape. 

Despite the containment, not a single lineman could bring sophomore quarterback Coulter Cleland down, as he broke a few tackles and threw an underhand shovel to junior slot receiver Aaron Maione, making every Marist defender miss and leaving the defense baffled as Davidson cashed in their first score.

The costly play would kickstart the Wildcat’s dominant first half. Bagozzi started to get some offense going when he marched up the pocket to avoid pressure, completing a short pass to Tristan Shannon lurking over the line of scrimmage for a first down. More incomplete passes in the pocket, another punt, and Davidson once again had the ball. 

There were signs of life for the Red Foxes sprinkled in the game. When Davidson had to punt within the ten yard line in the second quarter, the snap went high, forcing the punter to make a quick decision with Marist edge rushers charging full speed. He made the conservative play and fell down, turning the ball over on downs.

Then the flag was thrown.

The Tenney crowd went silent. The referees quietly discussed, both teams looking anxiously for the call: “Holding, Defense, Davidson first down.”

Marist roared into argument, but the refs corralled once more, changing the penalty marker to holding on offense. The crowd shouted in unison, and on the second play in the endzone– a quick slant to Brandon Lombana from Bagozzi– special teams had given the Red Foxes a crucial score to tie the game 7-7.

The killer mistakes on big plays continued to rain down. Cleland would complete another short pass to Maione, once again having his feet do the work and causing the Marist corner to miss on a ballhawk attempt, and ran 40 yards downfield to get in the Red Zone. Cleland would come up with another big pass to the other sophomore slot receiver, Jaleel Sales, wide open in the endzone to take the lead.

It was another quick offensive possession for Marist, and another huge score for the wildcats. On the second play of the drive, Cleland took his first deep shot downfield, and a wide open  Brody Reina guided the ball safely into his hands for an easy score, and Marist was suddenly down two scores quick.

With the ball back in Bagozzi’s hands, he continued to struggle on accuracy, overthrowing his receivers in one-on-one coverage. On a third-and-6 situation, he made a roll out to the left, and throwing on his opposite side launched a picture-perfect deep ball to Matt Stianche over-the-shoulder to get Marist to the endzone. Despite Stianche’s brilliance on deep ball (4 catches for 161 yards and two touchdowns) Davidson had complete control after the Marist turnover on downs. 

Photo by Kira Crutcher

Play after play they made short passes in the middle of the field that made the Red Foxes look silly on defense. At the 30 yard line, Davidson would take another deep shot down field and completely burn the opposing secondary, catching another big score. What was once Marist attempting to get within one score was now a 28-7 Davidson lead– at the half.

“They have so much action up inside, if you get your eyes up inside, then they’re gonna go by,” said Parady.  “I think we didn’t have the discipline that we needed today.”

Davidson continued to rain down the fire, scoring on their first drive of the second after electing to defer. Bagozzi came out of the second looking more in control of his passes. While his medium passes struggled earlier, he launched his second perfect deep ball of the game to Stiance on a go route, who sprinted down the left hashes for a 68-yard touchdown score. Marist was still down 35-14, meaning their play would have to be perfect for any hopes of a comeback.

It would prove too little too late. Davidson let its running game take over, and Marist would give up 40-plus points for a second straight game, resulting in a fourth quarter of garbage time 

“Give Davidson a lot of credit here today, they beat us on all three fronts,” said Parady.

Marist has a lot of work to do before hitting the road to take on Valparaiso on Sept. 23 at 1p.m. Though there was good play mixed in with the bad, the Red Foxes need to get plenty on the practice field to be game-ready next week and limit big mistakes.

Edited by Jimmy Tsiantoulas

Cover photo by Jaylen Rizzo

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