By Brian Willwerth
WALTHAM, MA – After back-to-back losses to the top two teams in the Northeast-10 Conference, Bentley University bounced back in a big way on Saturday.
Behind an impressive defensive effort, and an outstanding performance from quarterback Danny Guadagnoli, the Falcons dominated Merrimack, 38-21, in front of a Homecoming Weekend crowd of 3,491.
The junior quarterback from Framingham did it with his arm, and his legs. He threw for 341 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for 76 yards and two more scores on the ground. He was the Falcons’ leading rusher on the day.
“He really showed me some maturity today,” said Bentley head coach Thom Boerman, whose team improved to 6-2 on the year. “He ran when he needed to run, and he put the ball where it needed to be put [it and] I’m very, very proud of him.”
In the first quarter, Guadagnoli capped off an 11-play, 68-yard drive with a 14-yard scamper. Guadagnoli kept that drive alive with a completion on 4th-and-5. On the ensuing Merrimack possession, the Warriors marched down the field and had 1st-and-goal at the Falcons’ 4. But Bentley’s defense stiffened, and kept Merrimack off the scoreboard.
After a field goal by Will Lockwood put the Falcons up by 10, Merrimack got on the board. Joe Clancy threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Voegeli. The 2-point conversion failed. Clancy, who broke many conference records in last week’s 81-point outburst against Saint Anselm, threw for 321 yards against Bentley, but was picked off three times.
Bentley delivered the equivalent of a knockout punch late in the first half with two touchdowns in less than a minute. Guadagnoli’s second rushing touchdown of the game made it 17-6. Then, following a Steve Hopkins interception, Bentley found the end zone again on Lorenzo Warren’s one-yard run. It was 24-6 at halftime, and the Warriors never got the deficit under double-digits the rest of the way.
Guadagnoli had two favorite targets on this day. Jeff Hill caught eight passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns, while Sean Cross also broke the 100-yard plateau (107.)
Merrimack, which was coming off an 81-point performance last week, came into this game averaging 40 points a game, and led the conference in total yards per game. But the Falcons’ defense limited the Warriors to 21 points, and 370 total yards – far below the 534 Merrimack had been averaging.
“Coach Boyle [defensive coordinator Scott Boyle] did a tremendous job preparing his people,” said Boerman. “When we scored early, that forced them [Merrimack] out a little of what they wanted to do.”
Bentley travels to Southern Connecticut State next weekend, while Merrimack returns home to take on Assumption College.