Posted: Jan 06, 2015
SPRINGFIELD, Mass.--It's here...the top-10 of 2014 in Western New England University Athletics. For the next two weeks, we'll unveil the top 10 stories/moments played out by Western New England NCAA teams, coaches and student-athletes for the last calendar year. The countdown begins with the football team's stunning 15-point comeback in the final 5 minutes and 30 seconds to defeat city rival and host Springfield College, 38-34, in the inaugural Pynchon SAW Game in front of 4,067 fans at Stagg Field.
A Max Nacewicz 40-yard fumble touchdown return and 2-point conversion gave the Pride a seemingly comfortable 34-23 lead with 6:21 left in the fourth quarter. But the Golden Bears came right back on the ensuing drive, capped by a Tyler Ward 26-yard TD pass over the middle to Tucker Schumitz that covered 64 yards on four plays in just 44 seconds. After the successful 2-point try to pull within 34-31 with 5:30 left, a resilient WNE squad got the ball right back by recovering an onside kick at its 45-yard line. WNE marched quickly down the field, capping an 11-play drive with a 2-yard TD plunge from Kevin Cook for a 38-34 lead with 1:22 remaining. A critical 19-yard pass completion on 4th-and-4 and another of 12-yards on 4th-and-9, along with a costly Pride pass interference penalty at the 2, kept alive the 'Bears final possession.
The Pride got as close as the WNE 37 on the final drive of the game but were unable to rally for the win, letting an 11-point cushion deflate.
Cook finished the game with 98 yards on 28 carries and three scores for the Golden Bears, while quarterback Ward went 18-for-25 for 184 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Schumitz had seven catches for 79 yards and a pair of TDs.
With the four-point victory, WNE evens the all-time series at one win apiece against SC--a program that has qualified for the NCAA Division III Football Championship five times.
The second installment of the rivalry was newly named the Pynchon SAW Game over the summer after a winning entry in a fan contest to officially name the series. Pynchon SAW is derived from city founder William Pynchon and the acronym of "SAW" is for the first initial of both schools, Springfield And Western New England. Springfield won 49-40 at WNE in the final minutes in 2013.
The Golden Bears went on to win their next five games to start the season 6-0--the best in team history--en route to an 8-2 finish overall, which is a four-game improvement from 2013's 4-6 mark. The two losses came by a combined eight points. Western New England spent four consecutive weeks--another program first--atop the New England Division III sports information directors' poll, debuting in the top spot for the first time ever on Sep. 15. The team produced three USA College Football All-Americans, an Academic All-American and eight All-New England Football Conference (five on the first team) standouts.