NEW LONDON, Conn. – Junior quarterback Ryan Jones 3-yard touchdown run on fourth down with nine seconds left lifted Coast Guard to a dramatic 38-35 win over Norwich to capture The Mug on Parents' Weekend in the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) opener. The game featured three lead changes in fourth quarter.
Coast Guard is off to a 3-1 start for the second straight season and beat the Cadets for the third straight time for The Mug. The 73 points in the game are the most combined points in the 73 meetings between the two schools.
The Cadets, who drop to 1-3 overall, almost stunned the home crowd when junior Connor Bourque returned the ensuing kickoff after the game winning touchdown 60 yards to the Coast Guard 40 before senior kicker Cole Austin and freshman Adam Barnes took him down to set off the wild celebration on the home sideline.
Norwich took the lead 35-31 on a 28-yard touchdown pass from sophomore Matt Dunn (23 of 35 for 274 yards) to sophomore Manni Romero (7 receptions, 118 yards) with 4:01 left, the combo's fourth touchdown of the game, before the Bears marched 76 yard in 16 plays converting three fourth downs for the game winning score.
Jones would complete a 12-yard pass to sophomore Justin Moffatt on 4th and 6 from the Coast Guard 28, a 13-yard pass to Moffatt on 4th and 8 from the Norwich 19 before the game winner on fourth down.
Jones finished 21 of 34 for 257 yards with one touchdown and one interception while rushing seven times for 36 yards and the score.
Moffatt had 10 receptions for a career-high 178 yards and a score. It was the third game this season with over 100 yards.
Coast Guard finished with 488 yards of total offense (333 passing and 155 rushing) while Norwich had 449 yards (274 passing and 175 rushing).
Norwich opened the scoring on a 1-yard run by junior Aaron Conner with 10:46 left in the first quarter on the opening drive of the game.
Austin would miss a 23-yard field goal on the Bears first possession, but he would then convert three field goals in the second quarter from 21, 33 and 39 yards to give the Bears a 9-7 lead with 7:47 left in the first half.
Freshman Jay Griffin's first career touchdown, a 1-yard run with 3:51 left in the first half, gave Coast Guard a 16-7 lead, the Bears went into their bag of tricks on that drive as Moffatt threw a 76-yard pass to senior Chip Crowley to get the ball to the 1-yard line.
The Cadets would answer one minute later on a 51-yard touchdown pass from Dunn to Romero to make the score 16-14 at the half.
Coast Guard scored on the opening possession of the second half on sophomore Chris Gardner's 1-yard run with 13:13 left in the third to extend the lead to 23-14. The big play on that drive was a 59-yard pass from Jones to Moffatt on the first play of the half.
The Cadets would make it 23-21 on a 9-yard TD strike from Dunn to Romero with 3:37 left in the quarter.
Norwich took the lead 28-23 with 11:22 left in the game on a 15-yard pass from Dunn to Romero.
Coast Guard answered right back going 56 yards in just five plays and a Jones to Moffatt 25-yard touchdown pass gave the Bears a 29-28 lead and those two would hook up again for the 2-point conversion pass extending the lead to 31-28 with 9:02 left.
The Bears forced a 13-yard punt and took over at the Norwich 28, but Jones was intercepted and Norwich would drive 77 yards in seven plays to take a 35-31 lead with 4:01 left.
Gardner led Coast Guard with 21 carries and a career-high 83 yards while Crowley had three receptions for a season-high 95 yards in the win.
Senior linebacker Jake Behne lead the Coast Guard defense with 13 tackles, seven solo and two for loss.
The Bears travel to Washington, D.C. next week to take on Catholic with kickoff set for 1:00.