Courtesy of Merrimack Athletics
SMITHFIELD, R.I. â€“ Greg Abelli (Billerica, MA) caught 10 passes for 160 yards while James Suozzo (Everett, MA) amassed 350 passing yards but Merrimack fell short, completing non-conference action with a 46-29 loss to FCS-opponent Bryant University Saturday afternoon at Bulldog Stadium.
After Bryant took the opening kickoff and marched down the field, scoring in 10 plays, Suozzo and Abelli responded right back, as the junior quarterback found his receiver three times on the drive for 81 yards, including a 53-yard touchdown pass for the senior wide outâ€™s first score as a Warrior.
Bryant running back Mike Canfora notched three of his four touchdown scores in the second, two on the ground and one in the air, to push the Bulldog lead to 27-6 midway through the second.
Following a 38-yard kick return from Artis Holt (Baltimore, MD), Suozzo hit Isaiah Voegeli (Hyannis, MA) through double coverage for his first collegiate touchdown to cap an eight-play, 49-yard drive and cut the deficit to 13 at 27-14 with 4:53 to play in the second.
The Warriors got the ball right back following Justin Marsanâ€™s (Methuen, MA) second interception of the game and of his career, and Suozzo scampered in from four yards out to cut the lead to one score at the half.
After Merrimack went three-and-out to open the second half, Bryant made it a two-score game as Mike Croce hit Matt Tracey from 10-yards out. The Warriors looked like they had the Bulldogs stopped earlier in the drive on third down, but Croce avoided the blitz and found Jordan Brown who raced 31-yards out to set up a first-and-goal.
Bryant looked like it was in control from there, taking advantage of a face mask on the Warriors on third down. Canfora then rushed into the end zone from four yards out for his fourth score of the game. With the Bulldogs going for two on the PAT, Croce was picked off by Holt who returned it 101 yards for the two-point defensive conversion, the first defensive PAT in school history.
With 6:06 to play, Michael Wheeler (Hanover, MA) rushed in from five yards out to cap a 10-play, 85-yard drive in just 3:20, cutting the lead to 39-29 after Merrimack failed on the two-point attempt.
But the Warriors failed to recover the ensuing onside kick, and Croce hit Tracey in the end zone to put the game away for the Bulldogs who improved to 3-0 on the season.
Suozzo was over 300 yards passing for the first time this season, completing 29 of 54 passes for 350 yards. He rushed for another 46 yards and one score and even completed a pass to himself. Abelli, who had 113 receiving yards in the first eight minutes of the game, finished with 10 receptions for 160 yards. Omari Mobley (Hanover, PA) (six catches, 49 yards) and Voegeli (six catches, 93 yards) also had a strong game offensively for the Warriors who amassed 424 yards offensively, compared to 469 for Bryant.
Holt totaled 134 yards in kick returns and returned a two-point conversion for a defensive PAT. Marsan notched his first two career interceptions in the first half and totaled three tackles. Shawn Loiseau (Shrewsbury, MA) led all defenders with 11 tackles, while freshman Josh Henry (Westport, CT) added eight tackles.
For Bryant, Brown (182 yards) and Canfora (111 yards) anchored the rushing attack, while Croce threw for four touchdowns and 178 yards on 15-of-28 passing.
Merrimack (0-2) opens conference action at Stonehill College on Friday at 7 p.m. The Skyhawks lost to AIC in their conference opener 14-12 on Saturday.