Pace Edges Stonehill in OT, 23-20

Senior All-American Stephan Neville returned his NCAA Division II record ninth career kickoff for a touchdown in the first quarter this afternoon. (PHOTO BY Richard Orr)

Neville breaks NCAA Division II record with ninth career kickoff return for TD

PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y. (September 10, 2011) – Pace University spoiled an NCAA Division II record-setting day for Stonehill College by claiming a 23-20 overtime victory in non-conference football action at Finnerty Field this afternoon.

Stonehill College senior All-American Stephan Neville (Foxborough, Mass./Foxborough) made NCAA Division II history when he returned his ninth kickoff return for a touchdown late in the first quarter. Neville's 88-yard touchdown return was his first of the season broke the previous record of eight set by Dave Ludy of Winona State University from 1991-94 that he had tied last fall. Neville, whose first career kick return for a score came at Pace on September 13, 2008, now sits two kick return scores shy of the NCAA all-divisions record of 11 set by Florida A&M's (FCS) LeRoy Vann from 2006-09.

Neville averaged 52.3 yards on his three kickoff returns for the afternoon and totaled 12 yards on three punt returns. He also chipped in on defense with five tackles (three solo), including 0.5 for a loss of a yard and a pass breakup.

Pace senior kicker Ali Mourtada (Foxborough, Mass./Foxborough) kicked three field goals, including the deciding 27-yarder on the Setters first overtime possession and freshman defensive back Andy Vital (Hamilton, N.J./Nottingham) picked off three passes, his third coming in the end zone on Stonehill's first offensive play of overtime after Mourtada's final field goal.

Mourtada also converted field goals of 35 and 44 yards in the first half, averaged 38.5 yards on eight punts, placing three inside the Stonehill 20 yard line, and averaged 57 yards on five kickoffs. Vital also finished with 26 yards on interception returns and added an assisted tackle for a loss of a yard. Senior defensive back David Lopez (Ozone Park, N.Y./Christ the King) led Pace with 15 tackles (seven solo), while junior Brian Mizerek (West Milford, N.J./West Milford) finished with eight stops (three solo), including 0.5 for a loss of four yards. Junior Ryan Cuffe (Staten Island, N.Y./St. Peter's) chipped in with seven tackles (three solo), including one for a loss of a yard, a forced fumble, pass breakup and quarterback hurry.

Pace sophomore quarterback Jordan Raynor (Browns Mills, N.J./Pemberton) completed 22-of-41 passes for 275 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions on the afternoon. He also carried the ball 12 times for ten yards. Six of his passes went to freshman wide receiver Cameron Davis (Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla./Providence) for 101 yards, while junior Patrick Lupfer (Mineola, N.Y./Kellenberg Memorial) caught five passes for 59 yards. Freshman Anthony Upshaw (Teaneck, N.J./Teaneck) added a 53-yard touchdown reception for the Setters.

Senior running back Eshawn Armstrong (Middletown, N.Y./Middletown) rushed the ball 26 times for 70 yards and a touchdown.

Stonehill sophomore quarterback Logan Meyer (Ventura, Calif./Saint Bonaventure) completed 20-of-42 passes for a school-record 315 yards, but was hampered by the three Vital interceptions, and carried the ball three times for five yards and a touchdown. Freshman Zaire Reiph (Norwalk, Conn./Saint Luke's School) caught four passes for a season-high 107 yards. Junior Kyle Norwood (Rehoboth, Del./Cape Henlopen) had two receptions for 62 yards and senior Danny Carducci (Rocky Hill, Conn./Rocky Hill) finished with five catches for 51 yards.

Junior Jareed Gaines posted 13 tackles, including 1.5 for a loss of two yards, and an interception to lead the defense today. (PHOTO BY Richard Orr)

Sophomore kicker Michael Kielbasa (Ludlow, Mass./Loomis Chaffee School) was two-for-three on field goal attempts, while making both extra point attempts, converting field goals of 23 and 25 yards on the afternoon. Sophomore Jamal Johnson (Brockton, Mass./Brockton) rushed the ball 11 times for 36 yards.

Junior Jareed Gaines (Lumberton, N.J./Rancocas Valley) led the Stonehill defense with 13 tackles (eight solo), including 1.5 for a loss of two yards, and an interception that he returned 13 yards. Senior Matthew Iannucci (Oakland, N.J./Indian Hills) posted ten stops (six solo), while junior Fabrice Dragon (Stoughton, Mass./Cardinal Spellman) contributed four tackles (three solo), including 1.5 for a loss of four yards, and a sack. Senior Justin Kopcik (East Haven, Conn./Notre Dame) chipped in five tackles (two solo), including 1.0 for a loss of two, and a pass breakup.

Pace held possession for over 11 minutes more than Stonehill at 35:38, compared to 24:22 for the Skyhawks. The Setters posted 361 yards of total offense, with 275 in the air and 86 rushing, while Stonehill finished with 358 yards on 315 passing and 43 rushing. Both teams committed three turnovers.

Pace drove to the Stonehill one yard line on its first possession of overtime before settling for Mourtada's third field goal of the afternoon from 27 yards out. Vital sealed the win with his third interception of a Meyer pass in the end zone intended for Reiph on the first play of its first overtime possession.

Stonehill attempted a 42-yard field goal by freshman Ryan Handy (Howell, N.J./Howell) that fell short with one second remaining in regulation. That attempt came when the Skyhawks retained possession at their own 20 after Mourtada missed a go-ahead 33 yard field goal wide right with 41-seconds to play. The Skyhawks drove to the Pace 25 with Meyer completing passes of 36 yards to Reiph and 15 yards to Norwood to set up the game-winning chance.   

Mourtada's first field goal of the afternoon opened the scoring from 35 yards out with 58 seconds remaining in the first quarter. That capped a 12-play, 42-yard drive that consumed 6:05. Stonehill immediately responded with Neville's record-setting return on the ensuing kickoff for a 7-2 Skyhawks lead after Kielbasa's extra point to cap the first quarter scoring. Mourtada's 44-yard field goal drew Pace within a point five minutes into the second quarter as the Setters went into halftime trailing 7-6.

Kielbasa capped Stonehill's first drive of the second half with a 23-yard field goal to extend its lead to 10-6. Pace regained the lead with a 53-yard touchdown completion by Raynor to Upshaw with 5:07 left in the third quarter. Raynor then completed a pass to Davis for the two point conversion (14-10).

Stonehill drew within a point (14-13) when Kielbasa capped the Skyhawks next offensive possession with a 25-yard field goal with 1:18 remaining in the third. Armstrong extended Pace's lead to seven (20-13) with a one yard plunge to cap a six play, 61-yard drive 1:10 into the fourth quarter. Mourtada's conversion failed to hold the lead to seven.

Stonehill knotted the score with 2:41 left in regulation as Meyer dove in from a yard out to cap a four play, 48 yard drive. Meyer connected with Reiph for 42 yards on the first play of the series to set up the score three plays later.

Stonehill (1-1, 0-0 NE-10) is back in action on Friday when it hosts rival Bentley University for the Northeast-10 Conference opener for both at W.B. Mason Stadium at 7 p.m. Pace (1-1, 0-0 NE-10) visits Merrimack College next Saturday at 1 p.m.