Mansfield University led for the majority of the game, but a pair of late touchdowns lifted Caldwell past the Mountaineers 21-20 in the season opener Saturday.
On the opening drive of the game, Nicholas Muro forced a fumble to set up Mansfield on the 50-yard line for its first offensive possession. Quarterback Koby Peacock found D.J. McLean for a 14-yard reception on the first play of the drive. A Caldwell penalty on third-and-long gave the Mounties new life, setting up a Jayden Walker eight-yard reception followed by a 16-yard touchdown run by Walker. The point after was blocked as Mansfield jumped out to the early 6-0 lead.
The Mounties pushed into Caldwell territory on the next two possessions, but were unable to replicate the success of the first drive. Mansfield’s defense forced three punts and Kayin Berger and Muro each had interceptions as the Cougar offense could not get much going.
Muro’s pick came at the under two minute mark before halftime and was returned down to the Caldwell’s seven-yard line to set up the Mounties nicely. A sack on the first offensive play put Mansfield at the 17-yard line, but Peacock found McLean on fourth and long to lift the Mountaineers to a 12-0 advantage just before halftime.
Dajuan Buie recorded the third Mountie interception of the half on Caldwell’s ensuing drive. Mansfield’s defense held the Cougars to just 69 yards of total offense and forced five turnovers in the first half.
Caldwell got on the board early in the second half when Tajae’ Irby found Jared Dockett for a 61-yard touchdown pass to cut the Mansfield lead to 12-7.
Mansfield’s defense forced a safety late in the third quarter to take a seven-point advantage before Peacock connected with John Rodgers for a 45-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the drive to lead 20-7.
After receiving the kick-off, Caldwell strung together a nine-play, 60-yard drive capped by Irby’s eight-yard scoring pass to Vincenso Brigati to pull within six points at 20-14.
Mansfield’s next two drives stalled before Ray Chico picked off a pass for the Cougars deep in Mansfield territory with under three minutes remaining in the game. Armani Bermudez ripped off a 23-yard rushing touchdown on the opening play and the point after was good to give Caldwell its first lead of the game at 21-20.
The Cougar defense came up with another interception on Mansfield’s next drive to put the game away.
Caldwell held a 312-220 advantage in total offense in the game.
Peacock completed 13-of-30 attempts for 163 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Rodgers totaled 47 yards receiving and McLean posted 43 yards as both receivers had a touchdown.
David Butler rushed nine times for 45 yards and Walker had 14 attempts for 40 yards.
Matt Roberts recorded a game-high 10 tackles including a sack with a forced fumble to lead the defense. Matthew Asobayire had a pair of sacks with Chase Moser and Alex Kozuhowski each adding a sack. In total, Mansfield had nine tackles for loss.
The Mountaineer defense forced eight turnovers with four fumbles and four interceptions. Roberts, Muro, Kozuhowski, and Ryan Ripka all forced fumbles with Muro, Buie, Berger, and Terrance Quaker picking off passes.
After the game, The Collegiate Sprint Football League (CSFL) ruled that Caldwell must forfeit the sprint football game played against Mansfield on Saturday, Sept. 14 due to ineligible student-athletes who participated in the contest.
The official final score will go down as a 1-0 win for Mansfield due to the forfeit. All statistics will count for Mansfield.
Multiple student-athletes from Caldwell failed to meet the required 178.0 pound weight limit at one of the two mandatory weigh-ins prior to Saturday’s game. Officials, coaches, and administrators were made aware of the failed weigh-ins prior to the game, which was played under protest.
The decision to call the game a forfeit was made by the CSFL office on Monday afternoon.
The win gives Mansfield a 1-0 start to the 2019 season and is the fifth straight win for the Mounties dating back to last season.
Mansfield hosts Chestnut Hill at Karl Van Noman Field on Saturday at 7 p.m.