Cortland, NY. – The Framingham State University football team rallied from 13 points down late in the third quarter but fell short suffering a heartbreaking 20-19 loss to Cortland State in an opening round game of the 2012 NCAA Division III Football Championship at the Cortland Stadium Complex.
The Rams were making their first NCAA appearance after capturing the New England Football Conference (NEFC) Championship a week ago and close the most successful season in Framingham State University football history a program best 10-2.
The Red Dragons are now 9-1 and advance to face Wesley next weekend in the second round of the NCAA Football Championship.
Framingham State junior running back Melikke Van Alstyne, of Salem, rushed for 227 yards on 31 carries with two touchdowns as he established a new Framingham State single season rushing mark. Van Alstyne has amassed 1,790 yards on the ground this season surpassing his old mark of 1,579 that he set a season ago.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Rams took a 3-0 lead just ten seconds into the second on a 29 yard field goal by sophomore Phil Clain. The field goal capped an 11 play 79 yards drive that featured a 34 yard run and a 12 yard run by Van Alstyne.
The Red Dragons answered with a 53 yards touchdown pass from senior Chris Rose to sophomore wide out Kordel McInnis and took a 7-3 lead after the extra point from Mike DeBole was good.
Sophomore defensive back Ony Ramos intercepted Rose near midfield to set the Rams up for their second field goal of the quarter. Van Alstyne, who went over 1,600 yards for the season and rushed for 130 yards on 19 carries in the half, moved the Rams down the field with rushes of 14 and 19 yards. Clain knocked through a 35 yard field goal to pull the Rams within one (7-6) with 3:36 on the clock.
Cortland quickly went 46 yards on nine plays to push the lead back to 10-6 on a 37 yard field goal by DeBole.
The Rams were moving down the field in the third quarter after a pair of long passes from freshman Matt Silva to senior Alex Avery, but the drive ended when Silva was intercepted on the Cortland five yard line by Andre Green. Green returned the ball to the 17 yard line.
Junior Justin Autera broke free for a 38 yard gain but was pushed out of bounds by junior Kevin Donahue to save a touchdown. The Red Dragons moved the ball to the Framingham 10 yard line where Rose hit McInnis on a screen pass for a touchdown to go up 17-6 with 2:10 left in the third.
On their next series, the Rams defense held the Red Dragons deep in their own end forcing a punt early in the fourth. Senior John O’Connell returned the punt 42 yards to set the Rams up with a first and goal from the 4 yard line. On their first play from scrimmage, Van Alstyne raced into the end zone untouched for the Rams first touchdown on the day.
Framingham State went for two and Van Alstyne found the end zone, but a holding penalty negated the two point conversion. The Rams were forced to kick and cut the deficit to 17-13 with 14:02 left in the game.
On the Rams next possession Cortland’s Phil Bossman intercepted Silva on the Rams 37 yard line and returned it all the way to the 20. Following a penalty on the Red Dragons, the Framingham State defense held and Cortland was forced to attempt a 27 yard field goal. DeBole’s kick went wide left and the Rams remained down four with 9:42 left in the game.
Another Cortland interception on the Rams ensuing possession set the hosts up with a short field once again. The Rams defense came through forcing the Red Dragons to attempt another field goal after having a first and goal from the seven. This time DeBole’s kick from 23 yards out split the uprights pushing the lead to 20-13 with 5:24 remaining.
The Rams answered with a game tying touchdown on their next possession as they went 79 yards in five plays. Van Alstyne opened the drive with an 11 yard run and Silva followed with a five yard gain. Van Alstyne did the rest of the work from there barreling 17 yards for a first down and then breaking down the sideline for a 43 yard gain setting the Rams up with a first and goal from the three. On the very next play, Van Alstyne rushed into the end zone untouched to pull the Rams within one at 20-19. Clain’s extra point hit the left upright and the Rams trailed by one with 3:38 left in the game.
The Rams kicked deep to Cortland who was able to get a first down near midfield and would need just one more first down to ice the victory. The Rams began to use their final timeouts and Cortland faced a fourth and inches from the Framingham 43 yard line. After a Cortland timeout, Rose’s quarterback sneak was good for two yards, the first down and sealed the win.
Junior Pat McGrath led the Rams defense that was ranked first in the NEFC with a game-high 13 tackles including 10 solo stops, while Donahue finished with seven tackles and a sack. Senior defensive lineman James Muirhead chipped in six solo stops including two for a loss, while sophomore Olajuwon Dickerson chipped in a pair of sacks.
Rose finished the game 15-of-30 for 189 yards with a pair of touchdowns and an interception, while Autera rushed for 121 yards on 31 carries. Senior Mike Humphrey was Rose’s favorite target with 10 receptions for 94 yards, while McInnis had four catches for 72 yards and two scores.