SMITHFIELD, R.I. – The Bryant University football team exploded for 29 points in the fourth quarter, erasing a 16-point deficit on its way to a 49-41 victory over Merrimack College in 2017 season opener on Saturday afternoon at Beirne Stadium.
Saturday's opener was an offensive slugfest between two old rivals, as the Bulldogs (1-0) and Warriors (0-1) combined for 1,101 yards of total offense. Bryant set a Division I program record with 49 points, while its 555 yards of total offense are third all-time.
Junior transfer QB Price Wilson (Marietta, Ga.) completed 21-of-38 passes for 378 yards and four touchdowns, while senior Matt Sewall (Portsmouth, R.I.) set career highs with nine catches for 146 yards and two scores. He also added 68 rushing yards on just three carries.
Bryant 49, Merrimack 41
Records: Bryant (1-0), Merrimack (0-1)
Location: Beirne Stadium | Smithfield, R.I.
COACH PERRY'S COMMENTS
"A lot of people would probably start pointing fingers, and there was absolutely none of it," Perry said. "I'm disappointed in the execution of things at times, but there wasn't a minute where I was not proud of their effort. If this group of players continues to work, we'll iron out the efficiency. We'll put them in better positions. Once we did, it all came together."
- With Bryant trailing, 28-12, Merrimack committed three huge penalties to help the Bulldogs back in the game. Consecutive 15-yard personal fouls quickly moved the ball from the Bryant 29 to the Merrimack 30, while an offside call negated an 11-yard sack two plays later. Bryant would eventually score on the drive to pull within eight, 28-20.
- With the game tied, 28-28, early in the fourth quarter, the Warriors intercepted a Wilson pass and returned it to the Bryant 43. Defensive pass interference was signaled, however, negating the play. On the very next play, senior Tom Kennedy (Farmingdale, N.Y.) scored on a 57-yard catch-and-run to put Bryant ahead for the first time.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- Merrimack jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Jake Ragusa intercepted the fourth play of the game and returned it to the Bryant 22. The Warriors then scored on a 26-yard TD reception by Sebastian Lucas. MC added to its lead following another interception. Derrick Villard scored on a two-yard plunge to make it 14-0 with 5:34 left in the first quarter.
- Bryant answered with the next 10 points to make it a four-point game. Sewall hauled in a 45-yard reception and sophomore Gavin Rowley (Hampstead, Md.) capped the drive with his first-career field goal, a 21-yarder. The Bulldogs made it 14-10 moments into the second quarter on a 13-yard TD pass from Wilson to Sewall.
- Merrimack extended its lead to 21-10 with an 11-play, 69-yard drive late in the second quarter. Rodney Samson converted on 4th-and-1 from inside the Bryant 10 and Villard pounded it in from two yards out.
- The Bulldogs scored the first two points of the third quarter thanks to a safety. Rowley pinned the Warriors at their own 90 with a nice punt and a false start backed them up even further. On the next play, junior Peter Corbett (Wantagh, N.Y.) broke through the line and sacked C.J. Scarpa in the endzone.
- Merrimack had an answer though as it turned a Bryant fumble into seven more points. Lucas made a 15-yard grab to put the ball inside the five and Villard caught a three-yard screen pass to make it 28-12 with 7:37 left in the third.
- The Bulldogs, however, would score the next 30 points. Sewall made an incredible leaping catch in the back of the endzone and senior QB Devin Ray (Bedminster, N.J.) snuck in on the two-point conversion to make it 28-20 with 1:49 left in the third.
- Sewall opened the game-tying drive with a 19-yard run on a reverse and sophomore Jean Constant (Delray Beach, Fla.) capped the drive with a beautiful catch in the back of the endzone. Wilson then connected with Ray on the two-point conversion to tie the game.
- Kennedy's 57-yard touchdown came on a play-action. He made the catch and then out-ran his defender for his first-career touchdown.
- Sophomore Robert Brown (Palmetto Bay, Fla.) then intercepted a Merrimack pass to give the Bulldogs the ball back. Sewall ran 21 yards on a reverse and freshman Isaac McCray (Middletown, R.I.) scored his first-career TD with an outstanding 18-yard run.
- The Warriors would pull within seven on a Justin Mount TD, but Bryant answered on the next drive as junior Brenden Femiano (Northport, N.Y.) exploded for a 40-yard scoring run to make it 49-35 with 4:58 left in the game.
- Bryant put up 555 yards of total offense, including 154 return yards, 177 rushing yards and 378 passing yards.
- The Bulldogs finished 4-for-14 on third down, while Merrimack was 10-of-24.
- Bryant turned the ball over five times in the game. The Bulldogs threw two interceptions and lost three fumbles.
- The Warriors finished the game with 546 yards of total offense, with Scarpa finishing 41-of-73 for 469 yards and four scores.
- Wilson finished the game 21-of-38 for 378 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.
- Sewall set career-highs in receptions (9) and receiving yards (146), while adding two reception TDs. He also rushed for 68 yards, finishing with 232 all-purpose yards.
- Femiano finished with 79 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.
- Constant posted five catches for 72 yards and a score, while adding 128 kick return yards.
- Rowley made a field goal, four extra-point attempts and averaged 47 yards per punt on the afternoon.
- Sophomore Richard Ukele (East Longmeadow, Mass.) led the defense with a career-high 17 tackles.
- Junior Thomas Costigan (Stamford, Conn.) made 11 tackles, 2.5 sacks, three TFLs and forced a fumble.
- Wilson's 378 passing yards are the second most in a game in program history. It is the most passing yards by a QB in his first game in program history.
- Ukele tied a single-game program record with his 17 tackles. The only other player to accomplish the feat was Jason Riffe on Sept. 25, 2010 against Central Connecticut.
- Sewall's 146 receiving yards are the ninth-most in a game, while his nine receptions are the fifth most. He is only the fourth different player in school history with as many as nine catches in a game.
- Bryant has now won seven-straight games over Merrimack and is 8-6 all-time against the Warriors. The Bulldogs have scored 40+ points in four-straight against MC.
The Bulldogs head north to Orono, Maine, to take on the Black Bears next Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. at Alfond Stadium.