WALTHAM, Mass. -- It's been a rough stretch for the Bentley University Falcons over the past three games. Losses to 5-2 Merrimack College, 6-2 Southern Connecticut State and most recently, nationally-ranked and once-beaten University of New Haven, all by a total of 11 points, have made their goals of a Northeast-10 Conference championship and an NCAA playoff berth become unattainable in 2011.
However, with two games left, Thom Boerman's team can still achieve a six-win season with a strong finish. Still left on the slate are a trip to Pleasantville, N.Y. for an encounter with Pace University this Saturday (1 pm) and the season-ender at home against Assumption Nov. 5.
Bentley will take records of 4-4 overall and 3-3 NE-10 to Pace, where the Falcons will be looking to avoid the program's first four-game losing streak since 2000. Pace has had a difficult season, dropping its last five to fall to 1-6 overall (0-5 NE-10).
The Falcons are coming off a shootout this past Saturday at New Haven, a game that featured 997 yards of total offense, 83 points and no turnovers. Bentley overcame an early 15-point deficit and went into the fourth tied with the Chargers, 31-all, but eventually came up on the short end of a 45-38 tally.
Bentley, down 45-31 with five minutes to play after New Haven scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns, closed to within seven with 3:36 left, and after a defensive stop, moved from its own 21 to the New Haven 25 before the drive stalled midway through the final minute.
There were a number of outstanding performances for Bentley in the game, including another stellar effort from 2010 Northeast-10 MVP Bryant Johnson (Hopedale/Milford HS). The graduate student established career-bests with 391 passing yards and 437 yards total offense (most by a Falcon since Marc Eddy in the 2004 NCAA playoffs) while accounting for four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing). Johnson had a team-best 46 rushing yards and finished 27 of 41 through the air. He moved into second in career TD passes with 60 and surpassed 7,000 passing yards.
Wade Critides (Wayland/Wayland HS) topped the century in receiving yards for the fourth time in five games, with his 10-for-147 effort boosting his career totals to 128 receptions and 1,847 yards. Critides is currently tied for fourth in Division II in receiving, with 61 catches for 755 yards.
Juniors Mike Sumrell (Dorchester/Belmont HS), Sean Cross (Duxbury/Duxbury HS) and Bill Kiley (Quincy/Boston College HS) all had solid efforts against New Haven, combining for 13 catches for over 200 yards, and grad student Will Spring (Concord/Lawrence Academy) caught a 36-yarder for his first career TD.
Sumrell had six catches for 79 yards, Cross caught four balls, and Kiley's 98 receiving yards including an 80-yard TD reception. He also drew a couple pass interference flags that extended scoring drives.
On the other side of the ball, sophomore Anthony Carter (Marlboro/Marlboro HS) and junior Jack Pizzotti (Melrose/Melrose HS) each reached double-digits in tackles while playing new positions. Carter was shifted from linebacker to strong safety and responded with 12 tackles, and Pizzotti, a running back who had been sidelined most of the year with a wrist injury, was inserted in his place. He responded with 10 tackles.
Junior kicker Will Lockwood (Menlo Park, Calif./Sacred Heart Prep) also inserted his name into the record book by drilling a 46-yard field goal on the final play of the first half to even the score at 24 apiece. That was the longest in Bentley's 24 varsity seasons.
Overall for the season, Bentley has been a bit of an enigma at times offensively. The Falcons are putting up about 430 yards, 34 points and 23 first downs a game, but have converted less than 40 percent of their third-down plays after the first quarter.
While the defense has been solid for most of the year (ranking one or two in the NE-10 in most categories), the Falcons have been unable to come up with the key turnover, forcing only 11 all season to date. And when all the losses have been close, one or two fewer possessions per game by the opponent can be the difference.
It's been a rough season thus far for Pace, whose only win came back on Sept. 10 against Stonehill, 23-20. The Setters haven't scored a first-quarter touchdown yet this fall, and have been outscored 317-52 in the six losses.
Sophomore Jordan Raymor handles the quarterbacking duties for the Setters, with junior Patrick Lupfer his primary receiver, with his 40 catches a third of the team's total. Raymor has thrown for five TDs and 1,065 yards while completing 54 percent of his attempts. On the ground, Blair Wynn leads Pace with 265 yards.
Defensively, Pace's numbers are not pretty. Opposing QBs have completed 65 percent with 18 TDs (against only five interceptions) and the Setters are giving up better than six yards a carry on the ground.
Corner Andy Vital is having a solid freshman year with four interceptions, and free safety David Lopez averages better than ten tackles per game.
These two teams will be facing each other for the first time since 2009 when the Falcons used a touchdown and extra point with 18.6 seconds left in the fourth to pull out a 28-27 victory.
BENTLEY BRIEFS: All-time, Bentley is 9-3 against Pace with an eight-game winning streak in the series … Three of Bentley's four losses have been to teams ranked in the top seven of the first NCAA Division II Super Region 1 rankings of the season: number one New Haven, number three West Virginia Wesleyan and number seven Southern Connecticut State … The Falcons are one of only ten Division II teams in the country who have scored at least 23 points in every game this season … Sophomore linebackers Blaine Hopwood (New Bedford/New Bedford HS) and Kyle Young (Ellicott City, Md./ Centennial HS) continue to lead the team in tackles, with 67 and 55, respectively … Links to live stats and live video for Saturday's game will be available at www.bentleyfalcons.com.