Hurricanes defense throttles the Knights
Hartford improves to 2-1 with win over Rice
By John Seaver
While we all pray for the people in the Carolina's as they deal with the devastating effects of Hurricane Florence, the Hartford Hurricanes defense stepped up and shut down the Green Knights from Rice to improve to 2-1 on the season. The Canes defense twice stopped Rice at the goal line and the balanced offense scored three TD's after going down 8-0 in the first quarter to secure a hard fought 21-8 victory in front of a big crowd at the Hurricanes home opener.
Rice came into the game 2-0 with impressive wins over Mount Mansfield and the Burlington/South Burlington Seawolves. After a big opening game win at St Johnsbury, the Canes lost an uninspiring game at Middlebury. And the Canes started slow in this game giving up a TD on the Knights second drive, a 70 yard 6 play drive capped by a 16 yard TD pass from QB Ryan Byrnes to John Rousseau with 4:52 to play in the first quarter.
The Canes offense could not move the ball against the stingy Rice defense going three & out the next two possessions. But the Canes defense kept them in the game with a goal line stand at the beginning of the 2nd quarter stopping Rice at the 1 yard line. After successive drives ended in Hartford turnovers, the Canes offense finally broke through taking advantage of a Rice miscue on a punt to take over at the Green Knights 44 yard line. Cole Jasmin hit Riley Packard on a nice 28 yard completion to the Rice 16 and 4 plays later, Reece Thompson scored on a 5 yard run to cut the lead to 8-7 with just under a minute to play in the half.
The defense set up the next Hartford score early in the third quarter when Thompson intercepted a Byrnes pass and returned it to the Rice 2 yard line. Zach Burek plowed into the end zone on the next play giving the Canes their first lead of the game 14-8.
Rice drove the ball to the Hartford 10 yard line on the next possession but the Canes defense came up big again as Dylan Tucker knocked down a 4th down pass into the end zone to protect the 6 point lead. The Canes then had their best drive of the night, a 90 yard, 13 play drive capped by a Nick Porter 12 yard TD run. After Kobe Peach nailed his third extra point of the game, the Canes had a 21-8 lead.
Dylan Tucker added a 4th quarter interception to quell the next Rice drive and the Canes ground the clock in the fourth quarter to secure the 21-8 win.
Asked how he thought his team responded to last weeks loss, head coach Matt Trombly said "I was happy our guys could bounce back after last week. I thought our defense made some key plays which allowed our offense to grind it out." And grind it out they did. Unofficially, the RB tandem of Nick Porter, Reece Thompson and Zach Burek combined for 250 yards on 49 carries. Cole Jasmin was 3-8 passing for 75 yards hitting Riley Packard twice for 62 yards and Porter for one catch and 13 yards.
But the story of this game was the Canes defense. Defensive coordinator Marc Bucklin commenting on his defense said "I'm proud of the way they competed. As a unit they are working hard to get better every week so it's nice to see them have success.
Category 5 Hurricane Player of the Game: Senior RB/LB Reece Thompson. Thompson carried the ball 16 times for 82 yards and a TD and added an interception in the 3rd quarter that set up the go ahead touchdown.
Game Notes: Hartford kicker Kobe Peach is 10 for 10 on extra points this season. I think we may see a field goal try or two this season.
The Hurricanes honored some of the Hartford locals who contributed time, effort and money to get the new press box built in a nice pregame ceremony.
Hartford hosts Rutland (2-1) next Friday while Rice hosts St Johnsbury.
Follow me on Twitter @John_K_Seaver for in game updates.