Last week in an overtime shootout against Valparaiso, Marist’s starting running back–redshirt junior Amin Woods–put the finishing blow on the Beacons with a game-winning rush.
Today, Woods was undoubtedly the star and the workhorse for the Red Foxes with a 67-yard rushing touchdown–the longest of his career–along with a program-record 38 carries for 236 yards to give Marist the 34-24 advantage in a shootout with a packed family weekend crowd .
Marist and Stetson were locked in a touchdown shootout for the first half with three touchdowns a piece, but the Red Foxes stamina outlasted the Hatters with 519 yards of total offense, 306 of which came from the rushing game.
“It means everything to me, but it means more that the team got the win,” said Woods after his career day. “We were moving people up front, and it starts with the offensive line, so big shout out to my lineman.”
After Stetson went three-and-out on their first drive, junior quarterback Brock Bagozzi would hand the ball off to Amin Woods on a draw in the middle of the field. Only one defender lurked in Woods’s way when the running back lunged himself full force into the linebacker straight down the middle of the field for his career-record score.
Just as he capped off the overtime win against Valparaiso a week ago, an electric start from the running back set the tone for the Marist offense in front of a crowd of over 4,000 fans.
“We’ve been practicing well, and moving that over from the practice field to the game field, we haven’t done it in a bit,” said head coach Jim Parady. “We kept that focus… the energy in this place was great, the energy on our sidelines too was outstanding.”
After a failed first possession, the Hatters opted to establish their passing game first. After a roughing the passer penalty moved Stetson to the middle of the field graduate student Matt O’Conner slinged a ball appearing slightly out-of-reach for redshirt junior Jalon Warthern-Carr.
But the receiver leapt forward to get the ball in his fingertips. The Hatters quickly found the endzone with a wildcat play from running back Devon Brewer.
Marist’s biggest mistakes on defense resulted in third-down conversions for the Hatters, when blown man coverage led to a third-and-long play action play to get Stetson out of the endzone. Two penalties on the same play sent Stetson back for yet another third-and-long, but a second straight screen pass led to another conversion from sophomore running back Donovan Shepard.
After finally getting one fourth down stop, a field goal attempt from freshman kicker Daniel Holbrook went short and left. Though the Hatters failed to score, it was evident the Red Foxes had trouble stopping momentum on third down.
“Originally, we thought they were going to run their slants a lot deeper, but they kept cutting in,” said cornerback graduate student Isaiah Smith. “We had to line up closer and press, and we made the adjustments.”
Marist needed an offensive reboot after Stetson established passing dominance. Bagozzi, who only passed the ball 16 times, completed a quick slant to his no. 1 option–redshirt junior Matt Stianche–to start off the drive.
Stianche, driving with his legs, shook off his defender with no coverage down the middle of the field, starting a Marist-Stetson foot race. While the opposing defenders were catching his tail, redshirt senior Will Downes attempted to block the opposing secondary, but pushed a defender in the back, causing what could have been a 77-yard touchdown into a 44-yard pass.
In a gutsy play call to go for it on fourth-and-seven, Bagozzi trusted his legs to power past the first-down line and get Marist within the red zone for the first time. The offense looked confident after the fourth-down conversion, pushing down field and getting to the goal line, where redshirt senior Max Jackson–in wildcat formation–got the snap and charged in for the 14-7 score.
Special teams continued to cost Marist valuable yardage; the Hatters had 183 total kick return yards which kept them in manageable field position with Marist, including a 48-yard return from Warthern-Carr, leading to a coinciding Stetson score to tie it up.
The following drive, Woods got to work, amassing carry after carry and staying low to the ground to power through Stetson’s defense. Woods finished with 6.1 yards per carry and continued to get Marist first down completions automatically, with 13 rushing first downs as opposed to Stetson’s three. The efficient running set up Bagozzi in the endzone to throw a pinpoint pass for junior tight end Jackson Willette for another one-score lead.
“We ran a lot of inside zone, some outside,” said Parady. “It starts up front with the O-line, you gotta give them credit for continuing to establish the line scrimmage, because they have eight around the box. The backs were able to get yardage after handling that extra man.”
A 26-second, 67-yard touchdown drive led on four passes from O’Conner got the Hatters all the way down the field. O’Conner would find his receivers wide open in the middle of the field, getting them to the 27-yard line with six seconds remaining. Looking patiently, O’Conner slinged a ball rolling out right intended for senior Gabe Atkin, but not a single Marist defender was close enough as the ball landed safely in his hands. Dumbfounded, the Red Foxes would be tied instead of up a score going into the second half.
Just like the start of the game, Marist wasted no time on a score. On a free safety blitz, Bagozzi made a jump-throw to Stianche for a whopping 68-yard score, proving once again the ferocity of Stianche on one-on-one matches. Despite the Hatters highly-ranked pass defense last PFL season, the lead receiver finished with three catches for a whopping 121 yards.
The touchdown shootout continued on until the Hatters decided to play it safe on their first possession of the second half, opting for a field goal. Playing into the strengths, Parady let his running back duo take control, trusting Bagozzi to make timely short passes and continued to get downfield with ease. Marist matched with a field goal of their own for a 31-24 lead.
Marist chewed crucial time off the clock while the run game looked unstoppable. Giving Woods a rest, Jackson came within the red zone. On a rush right, Jackson dropped the ball, and Marist failed to put the finishing blow on Stetson.
In a miraculous third down, the ball would once again come out loose and get recovered by graduate student Kyle Coffindaffer, the second turnover of the game. Marist opted for another field goal, giving them a ten-point lead forcing Stetson to go for it on their next fourth down. Reading the play perfectly, Smith robbed a short pass and put the game away, giving the Red Foxes a win at Tenney for the first time since October 29, 2022.
“We always feed off the crowd, always,” said Smith. “It was nice to see them, and we haven’t won here in a long time so it was nice to get a win in front of them.”
Marist goes back to a .500 record (2-2) riding off the back of Woods and gets some breathing room before hopping on a bus to face Columbia next Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
Edited By Jimmy Tsiantoulas
Photo Credit: Jaylen Rizzo