The scoreline makes the game look a lot easier than it was. Middlebury overcame a big, hard hitting Humboldt State 37 to 13 earlier today and thus qualify for the quarterfinal tomorrow against University of South Florida.
Middlebury led from start to finish but Humboldt always threatened…this was easily the hardest team we have played all season and the ref was not paying us any favors.
Middlebury opened the scoring early with a penalty kick converted by winger Sam Harrison ’11 and a few minutes later Harrison doubled the scoring with the boot. Harrison was highly effective with the boot today hitting 3 of 4 penalty kicks and 4 conversions for a total of 17 points. The MCRC dominated in the lineouts and the scrums – former 8th man Dan Chow ’09 now in the second row providing great power in the engine room but we lost him to a knee injury 23 mins into the first half (former winger Drew Harasimowicz replacing him). After this good opening it momentarily looked like we would take control of the game…then the penalties started. In the first half The MCRC had 13 penalties against and only 4 penalties in our favor. Hands in, not rolling away and off-sides, all calls made at the rucks, all calls that we had trouble agreeing with…but at the end of the day the ref’s decision is final whether we understand it or not. One of those early penalty calls gave Humboldt a chance to get on the scoreboard: Middlebury 6 – Humboldt 3.
With points on the board Humboldt gained in confidence and their tactical kicking often pinned us back in our own half. Our counter-kicks and tactical kicking were well fielded by Humboldt’s strong running fullback and one of our biggest mistakes in the first half was continually putting it back in this danger man’s hands. Poor tackling by Middlebury saw Humboldt camping in our 22. Some great goal line defense by flanker Chris Marshall ’11 stopped what looked like a definite Humboldt try. When the Middlebury line had the ball in their hands we looked dangerous and a brilliantly executed play by fly half Nick Fager ’09 saw the Humboldt defense part like the red sea for fullback Brendan Leanos ’10; great support from Trey Stewart ’09 and Brett Woelber ’09 saw Woelber punch in the try. Middlebury 13 – Humboldt 3. Great tactical kicking by Humboldt and more Middlebury penalties set up another Humboldt kick. The final 10 minutes of the half were nerve-wracking as The MCRC played one man down: flanker Marshall received a yellow card for the repeat infringement of not rolling away from the tackle. Confident play by the 14 men on the field saw us remain an attacking threat but our confidence cost us as we chose to run a penalty we probably should have kicked. Half time: Middlebury 13 – Humboldt 6
A few minutes into the second half Marshall was let back in and immediately made an impact both on offense and defense as he had been doing before the yellow card. Harrison added 3 more with the boot but Humboldt stayed in the game increasingly utilizing their large inside center as a battering ram to good effect. On Middlebury’s end Ed Cahill ’09 sliced through numerous Humboldt tackles each time he touched the ball and a great blind side break by 8th man Stewart, followed by quick passes back and forth with 9 man Brian Sirkia ’12.5 almost resulted in an incredible try. Stewart did get his try after some great support play but Humboldt answered with a converted try.
We made several substitutions in the second half: Gosney for Carr and Bills for Marshall 15 minutes into the second half and later Levine for Paddock and Pappa for Vandergrift. The subs made a great impact with Levine and Gosney both getting on the scoreboard – Gosney ‘s try being the highlight of the day, bursting through the Humboldt defense and taking on their fullback one on one at full speed (300+ lbs at full speed) and drilling him back into his own post (twice) on his way to scoring the try. Levine sealed the deal with a 30 yard break, the Maccabiah back to his old tricks.
Humboldt battled to the very end, taking quick tap advantage of numerous penalties, bringing their strong runners into play. Though the Middlebury team were some 20 odd points ahead they defended as though it were a 2 point game – credit to both teams for a hard fought game.
Tomorrow at 11:30 AM The MCRC takes on University of South Florida who overcame Colorado School of mines 37 – 14.