Marist came into Bailey Memorial Stadium looking to spoil Presbyterian’s homecoming weekend, trying to build on their momentum following last week’s win over San Diego.
In a similar effort to the defensive-powered win last week against San Diego, Marist’s defense dominated for the Red Foxes, with two big turnovers and 163 rushing yards on the offensive end– doubling the Blue Hose total–for a 19-10 win on the road.
Starting with the momentum on their side, The Blue Hose reached deep into their bag of tricks early. After attempting a flea flicker on their first offensive play, they handed off to sophomore defensive lineman Nigel Brown who powered his way into the endzone for an opening drive touchdown.
Presbyterian drove into Marist territory again on their second drive. Just when it looked like they were going to take command of the game, redshirt sophomore linebacker Angelo Vokolos answered the call. Vokolos got to sophomore quarterback Tyler Wesley for a strip-sack that was recovered by redshirt junior defensive lineman Miles Kauderer and returned for a Marist touchdown.
After graduate student linebacker Mike Arrington suffered a season-ending ankle injury, Vokolos stepped into the role and has done an admirable job filling in. He won the PFL defensive player of the week award in his first career start last week, and continued making crucial plays today.
“He is definitely going to be a big part of this defense. Losing Arrington was obviously a big blow for us, but Angelo [Vokolos] has really stepped in and taken advantage of his opportunities and he makes plays. He really has a nose for the football,“ said head coach Jim Parady.
The strip-sack resulted in the Red Foxes’ eighth fumble recovered in their last three games, leading the FCS in fumble recoveries this season. Additionally, it marked Marist’s first fumble return for a touchdown since their 2018 matchup against Jacksonville University.
Backed up all the way to their own one-yard line-facing a third-and-13, Wesley launched a deep ball from the back of his own end zone that traveled over 50 yards in the air. Soaring high, it landed in the hands of sophomore wide receiver Dominic Kibby for a huge 60 yard gain to convert the third down. The Blue Hose would have to settle for a field goal, giving them a 10-7 lead.
Over the last few games, the Marist defense has stepped up and kept the team in games while the offense struggled. That trend continued today; with under a minute left in the first half, sophomore cornerback Rechee Smith intercepted a pass by Wesley and returned it 52 yards to the end zone for Marist’s second defensive score of the game.
Junior quarterback Brock Bagozzi struggled in the first half, completing just two of eight passes for nine yards while being sacked three times.
Despite being shutout offensively through and limited to just 64 total yards, Marist went into halftime with a 14-10 lead.
A scoreless third quarter led to a high-pressure fourth. After a punt by Marist, freshman safety Kade Werner tackled the returner inside the end zone for a safety, giving the Red Foxes a 16-10 lead. This was the second consecutive game in which the Red Foxes forced a safety.
Marist’s passing game continued to struggle throughout the second half, as Bagozzi finished today’s game 5-15 with just 22 yards. The Red Foxes needed to count on their dynamic running back tandem to preserve the victory. Presbyterian clearly zeroed in on the Marist rushing attack by consistently stacking the box, but it was too late.
“We grinded. We knew coming into the game that was the plan of attack, to attack them with the running game. Credit to the offensive line,” said Parady.
Marist’s rushing duo filled in for the lack of passing, with 38 carries between the two starting backs. redshirt junior running back Amin Woods ran for 111 yards on 27 attempts. His counterpart, redshirt junior Tristan Shannon, added 42 yards on 11 carries.
After a nine play drive took seven minutes off the clock, redshirt junior kicker Chase Gardi drilled a 32-yard field goal that gave Marist a 19-10 lead with under three minutes remaining.
The Marist defense wasted no time shutting the door on the Blue Hose, making a stop on 4th down and getting the ball back to the offense, who would set up in victory formation and finish out the remainder of the game. The Red Foxes’ defense was the clear catalyst in today’s game, making several momentum swinging plays and scoring more points than both offenses combined.
“The defense has played lights out. We’re really thankful for how well they’ve been playing,” said Parady. “We know offensively we need to get better in some ways, but in the last two weeks we’ve done enough to get the win and that’s the most important.”
With today’s victory, the Red Foxes improved to 4-3 on the season and earned their fourth consecutive win in PFL play. Marist will be on the road again next week, as they prepare to take on the University of St. Thomas next Saturday at 2 p.m.
Edited by Dan Aulbach
Graphic and Photo Credit: Jaylen Rizzo