NO. ANDOVER, Mass. – Senior Justin Bernard (Cambridge, Mass.) made 14 catches for 163 yards and a touchdown and broke the NCAA Division II all-time record for receptions, as the Saint Anselm College football team recorded a 55-24 victory against Merrimack College on Saturday at Martone-Mejail Field.
The Hawks extend their program-best start to 5-0 (4-0 NE-10) by beating Merrimack for the first time since Oct. 10, 2008, while the Warriors drop to 2-3 (2-2 NE-10). That 2008 win against Merrimack was the first of head coach Patrick Murphy's career. The five straight victories match the program's longest single-season winning streak (Oct. 14-Nov. 11, 2000) and is the second longest run of wins all-time.
With two catches on the Hawks' opening drive, Bernard passed Robert Holland, who caught 325 passes for Chowan University from 2009-13. Bernard also caught a pass in his 35th consecutive contest dating back to Oct. 9, 2010, matching former teammate Marcel Bouie's record streak that ran from Sept. 7, 2007-Oct. 23, 2010
Fellow senior WR Ahkeen Williams (DeWitt, N.Y.) joined Bernard with 14 catches for 154 yards, while junior RB Elad Covaliu (Rockville, Md.) went over 100 yards rushing for the first time in a Saint Anselm uniform as he ran 15 times for 104 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore QB Yianni Gavalas (Manhasset, N.Y.) connected on 40 of 49 passes for 426 yards and a touchdown, while also running it seven times for 50 yards and two more scores. His 476 yards of total offense is the fourth best single-game mark in school history.
Saint Anselm scored 55 points – the second most all-time in a single game in program history – and racked up 601 yards of total offense – the fourth best single-game mark – while forcing seven turnovers to match the school record, tallying six sacks and holding the second best offense in the Northeast-10 to 373 yards. The Hawks also returned both an interception and a fumble recovery for a touchdown in the same game for the first time in program history.
Merrimack scored on the game's opening possession as Joe Capobianco hit Jere Brown with a 39-yard pass that set up Armond McRae's 1-yard touchdown rush that made it 7-0 with 10:45 left in the first quarter following Nick Zwaan's extra point.
Saint Anselm's offense answered with a 14-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a six-yard touchdown rush by Covaliu, which knotted the game at 7-all following the extra point from junior K/P Shane Grayson (Ormond Beach, Fla.) with 6:32 to play in the first. Bernard tied the record on the Hawks' second play of the drive and then broke it just five plays later.
The Hawks grabbed their first lead of the afternoon as they took advantage of a short field that was created by a turnover-on-downs at the Merrimack 48-yard line as Gavalas ran it in from 12 yards out to give Saint Anselm a 14-7 lead with 2:56 to play in the first quarter after Grayson's PAT.
Merrimack tied it when they recovered a Saint Anselm fumble at its 16-yard line and used McRae's second 1-yard run of the day, followed by Zwaan's extra point, to even at the score at 14 just 1:50 into the second quarter.
After the teams traded interceptions, the Hawks moved the ball 42 yards in just four plays and 42 seconds to go back on top, 21-14, with 9:37 left in the second. Gavalas polished off the series with a 6-yard touchdown run and Grayson added another extra point.
Grayson gave Saint Anselm a two-possession lead with a 29-yard field goal on its next possession, following a Merrimack punt. The Hawks took the ball back on an interception by senior LB Zach Hayes (Chelmsford, Mass.) at the Saint Anselm 38 and looked to be getting near field goal range with under a minute to play.
Terrell Huff had other ideas, however, as he intercepted Gavalas, tip-toed the left sideline multiple times, cut back out to the right hash and fully extended into the end zone as he was tackled for a 77-yard touchdown return as time expired on the first half. Zwaan's kick cut it to 24-21 at the half.
Junior DB Tyler Lindsay (Temple Hills, Md.) turned in a big first half, defensively, as he corralled Saint Anselm's first interception, nearly had two others and came up with a big break-up that nullified what would have been a 39-yard touchdown pass.
After the Saint Anselm offense went three-and-out and punted for the first time all day to begin the third, Merrimack looked like it had all the momentum and was going in to score, but junior DB Carroll Bailey (Clinton, Mass.) forced a fumble that was recovered by fellow junior DB Elijah Thomas (Gaithersburg, Md.) at the Hawks' 7-yard line.
The offense took over and crafted a five-play, 93-yard drive that lasted just 1:30. Receptions of 17 yards each from Bernard and fellow senior WR Brandon Gomes (Providence, R.I.) highlighted the series before Covaliu broke a 43-yard run up the middle for a touchdown that opened the lead to 31-21 following the Grayson kick with 7:30 to play in the third.
After a 59-yard pass from Capobianco to Brown set up a first-and-goal at the Saint Anselm 4-yard line, sophomore Eric Wilson (Dover, N.H.) came up with a monster sack that pushed Merrimack back 10 yards and eventually forced the Warriors to settle for a Zwaan field goal that cut it to 31-24 with 4:06 on the clock in the third.
Saint Anselm answered by grinding out a 15-play, 67-yard drive that ended with a 22-yard field goal from Grayson that extended the lead to 34-24 with 13:25 remaining in the contest.
The Saint Anselm defense again forced a Merrimack punt and the offense took it from there as it crafted a nine-play, 80-yard drive that was capped by a 7-yard touchdown pass from Gavalas to Bernard, who made the grab in the back of the end zone after the ball was tipped just over the goal line. Grayson made good on the PAT and the Hawks went ahead 41-24 with 8:00 on the clock.
The Hawks expanded the lead to 48-24 with 3:24 left when sophomore LB Kyrel Jaundoo (Mattapan, Mass.) strip-sacked Capobianco before Wilson picked up the ball and returned it 27 yards for the score. Grayson added the extra point.
Saint Anselm put the finishing touches on the win exactly 1:30 later as freshman Eddie Matovu (Tewksbury, Mass.) picked off Capobianco and ran it back 25 yards for the touchdown. Grayson matched the school record for extra points for the second straight week as he booted his seventh of the day to bring the score to 55-24.
Sophomore LB Josh Garrett (Riviera Beach, Fla.) officially sealed it when he came up with Capobianco's fifth interception of the game with 42 seconds left and Gavalas took the knee to end it.
Gomes caught six passes for 69 yards.
Jaundoo was an absolute monster on the defensive side of the ball as he racked up a career-high 12 tackles, including 4.0 for a loss and 3.0 sacks. He also forced a fumble, broke up a pass and was credited with a pair of quarterback hurries. It's the first three-sack game for a Hawk since Eric McKellick tallied three at Assumption on Sept. 27, 2008. The three sacks also either equal or top the number of sacks the team leader had in four of the past five seasons.
Sophomore LB Jeremy Betts (Cape Coral, Fla.) recorded 11 tackles, including 1.0 for a loss and 0.5 sacks, while senior DL Justin Waltzer (Danbury, Conn.) turned in 10 tackles, including 1.0 for a loss. Bailey finished with six tackles, an interception and a forced fumbled, with Lindsay making two tackles to go along with a pick and four pass breakups.
The Hawks return to action Saturday, Oct. 11 at 1 p.m. when they play host to defending Northeast-10 Champion American International College (4-1, 4-0 NE-10) at Grappone Stadium. Stay up-to-date with the latest news, including game previews and recaps, directly from the Saint Anselm College athletic department by liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter @STAHawks.