Marist Football Defense Paves the Way For First Program Victory Against San Diego

San Diego Football has a history of dominating the Marist Red Foxes, undefeated in 15 all-time matchups between the two.

History failed to repeat itself today. 

Marist’s refreshing defensive performance overpowered the San Diego Toreros, with a whopping six turnovers – the most in a game for Marist since the 2021 season against Presbyterian – coming in a 30-16 win.

The Red Fox win over San Diego was the first one in program history.

“They knew the history and so they feel good to be part of that history,” said head coach Jim Parady. “But they also know that it’s just a piece of what we’re doing this season.

San Diego football came into this season in a tough spot, battling with an alleged hazing scandal that included indefinite suspensions of multiple players on the roster. The Toreros notched a PFL win earlier this season against Dayton; first-year head coach Brandon Moore has navigated the way, and they entered today coming off a bye week.

On the other side of the field, Marist entered the game without graduate student linebacker and defensive star Mike Arrington, as he was seen on the sidelines wearing a boot with an apparent ankle injury that will end his season, according to Parady. 

Despite the injury, the Red Fox defense was a necessary catalyst with the offense getting off to a slow start. With only -6 yards of offense in the first quarter, the defense forced three consecutive fumbles on San Diego drives, helping the offense stay on the field. Redshirt sophomore Angelo Vokolos stepped up to fill Arrington’s role, with 2.5 sacks and 8 total tackles on the day.

“I know Angelos and the other defensive guys wanted to kind of make up for that [injury] and play for [Arrington] a little bit too.”

Even after a strong start for San Diego in the second half, Marist’s longest touchdown of the year – a 97-yard pick-six from sophomore safety Nick Vecchiarelli – sent the Tenney crowd into a frenzy in the pouring rain.

“Our foot was on the gas, and we had to finish the job,” said Vecchiarelli. “Job wasn’t finished, and we finished it.”

Junior quarterback and three-year captain Brock Bagozzi struggled in stormy conditions against Columbia, throwing three interceptions with four team turnovers, preventing the offense from executing. Today, the rushing duo of redshirt junior Triston Shannon and redshirt senior Amin Woods carried the Red Foxes down the field, with Shannon responsible for explosive rushes and Woods handling end-zone work; Shannon finished with a career-high 73 yards with 8.1 yards per carry.

Marist has been known to start off games in dramatic fashion. This time, the fireworks came on special teams, as Marist forced a fumble on the 23 yard-line to give them a favorable position from the jump.

A failed rush, a missed screen pass, and a fumble by Bagozzi stalled the first offensive drive. On third down, Bagozzi was flung to the ground by the rush and lost the ball 20 yards behind him, which Marist punted back to the 20-yard line, giving the Toreros the ball back after return mishaps.

While San Diego quarterback Grant Surgent looked promising on the deep ball with a 37-yard dime to receiver Ja’seem Reed, junior Nick Jackson sacked Surgent on the opening offensive drive to force a failed field goal attempt, getting the Red Fox defense off the field.

Shockingly, the break lasted one play. Bagozzi, yet to complete a pass, tested a one-on-one deep ball matchup with redshirt senior receiver Will Downes, but underthrew the ball, allowing junior cornerback Nick Murray to make his first interception of the season.

The Toreros needed a crucial offensive switch up after a scoreless first quarter; Sargent had struggled, and San Diego only completed one third down in the first quarter. Temple University transfer redshirt senior Re-al Mitchell touched the ball on three straight Wildcat snaps, where he broke out for a 49-yard touchdown for the first score of the day.

Marist’s offense began churning in the second quarter, opting to run it to Tristan Shannon for two big rushes, including a 33-yard rush to get Marist to the red zone. In the rainy conditions, Bagozzi continued to struggle, until he made a perfect high-arching touchdown pass to Trevor Sterry in tightly contested coverage for the 7-7 tie.

San Diego looked to build off their first drive, but a false start put the Toreros in tough field position on third down. Even with an impending blitz look, Surgent stayed in the pocket and Vokolos charged into his abdomen, knocking out the football; Jackson scooped it up for the recovery. Three plays from the Shannon-Woods rushing duo and 42 yards of rushing resulted in a cakewalk touchdown for Woods, his third of the season.

“We have two very different play styles, and the combination works very well,” said Shannon.

After the score, the Torero possession didn’t last. Forced to punt, the ball slipped right out of the punter’s hands and was recovered by the Marist defense for a third consecutive fumble recovery, resulting in a play-action touchdown pass from Bagozzi to Woods for a 21-7 lead at the half.

The offense slowed down for both sides during the third quarter, and after the pick-six from Sturgent made it a three-score game, San Diego ran out of time to counter after only scoring a field goal.

While Marist’s offense halted in the fourth quarter, special teams showed back up again, with freshman punter Aydan Corrales punting all the way to the 1-yard line on a perfect roll, leading to another fourth down situation backed up against their own end zone for San Diego. 

The long snap went right over the punter’s head, rolling all the way to the back of the end zone for a safety. When San Diego marched down the field in crunch time with under five minutes left, two consecutive sacks and an interception by Isaiah Smith ruined any hope for the Toreros to counter.

Marist improves to 3-1 in conference play and a .500 record on the year, stringing together a run of impressive defensive performances. Now the focus shifts to preparing for a road game in South Carolina next Saturday at 1 p.m. when they take on Presbyterian, who Marist beat 37-7 last year.

Edited by Luke Sassa

Graphic by Gavin Hard; Photo from Jaylen Rizzo

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