The Norwich University football team won its Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) opener with a 20-9 victory over Becker College on Saturday at Sabine Field at Haynes Family Stadium during NU Homecoming Weekend 2013.
The Cadets got first quarter touchdowns from senior running back Mike Cavanaugh and junior running back Al Georgio to jump on top 14-0 after the opening 15 minutes, en route to their second straight victory and their first at their newly-renovated $6-million stadium.
Freshman James-Dana Milan also added a touchdown for the Cadets in a breakout game for the rookie as he rushed for 61 yards on seven carries, with a long of 24 yards and an 8.4 yards per carry average.
Norwich (2-2, 1-0 ECFC) capitalized twice on the first play following turnovers created by senior defensive back Dan Gogan.
Gogan intercepted a pass by Becker starting quarterback Robert Baker on the Hawks' second drive of the game at Becker's 32-yard line. On the next play, NU starting quarterback Keyen Foley hooked up with Cavanaugh for a 32-yard touchdown pass. Freshman Wesley Medeiros added the extra point to put NU up 7-0.
Gogan came up big again when he forced a fumble by Becker's Jeffrey Pittman off a punt by Drew Banuskevich and then recovered the fumble to give Norwich the ball in excellent starting field position at the Becker 25-yard line.
The Cadets once again needed only one play as Georgio found a hole in the Becker defense and scampered into the end zone for his team-leading fourth rushing touchdown of the season. Medeiros added a successful point attempt after to increase the Norwich lead to 14-0 to close out the first quarter.
Becker (1-3, 0-1 ECFC) got on the board with 5:06 left to play in the second quarter when an errant Norwich snap on punt attempt sailed over Banuskevich's head and through the back of the end zone for a safety and cut NU's lead down to 14-2.
Norwich held Becker scoreless on 4-of-5 trips to the red zone on the day, including a huge goal line stand at the end of the first half with junior linebacker Matt LeFevre leading the way with the primary tackle on two successive plays to stuff Baker and Romario Vincent.
Neither side scored again until the fourth quarter when Becker notched in its first touchdown of the day on a 3-yard roll out pass by Baker to DeJahn Dawkins. Baker hit Dawkins wide open just inside the pylon in the right corner of the end zone after Norwich brought the house on a blitz. Dawkins added the extra point to cut the Norwich lead to 14-9 with 12:35 left to play in the game.
Both teams stalled on their next two drives and Becker made another costly mistake on fourth down as they botched a punt attempt forcing Dawkins to run the ball instead of punt. Norwich forced Dawkins out of bounds at the inside the Hawks' 30-yard line while they took over possession on downs.
After Foley rushed for a 3-yard loss, Georgio ran for 10 yards and then Foley rushed for nine more on a 3rd and 3 to pick up the first down and get to the Becker 11-yard line. Milan did the rest from there as he patiently waited for a hole to open up and then blasted through the line for his first collegiate rushing touchdown to give NU a 20-9 lead with 4:02 left to play.
Becker wasn't able to muster much on its final two possessions and they turned the ball over on downs with a minute to play after the Hawks' backup quarterback Dylan McGuire couldn't complete a pass to Nicholas Sherman on 4th and five.
Norwich kneeled on the ball twice to close out the game and improve to 23-4 all-time in ECFC play.
On top of the two forced turnovers, Gogan also had 7.5 tackles to lead the NU defense. Junior linebacker Addison Nye led the team with seven solo tackles and four assists for nine total tackles. As a team, Norwich posted five sacks and eight tackles for loss.
Becker outgained Norwich with 198 yards to 179. The Cadets ran for 123 yards to the Hawks' 68 yards on the ground.
Norwich will travel to Gallaudet next weekend to take on the 4-0 undefeated Bison with kickoff slated for noon on Saturday, Oct. 12.
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