Published September 15. 2013 4:00AM
Kings Point, N.Y. - For the fifth straight season in the Coast Guard Academy-Merchant Marine Academy football rivalry, the game was decided by seven points or fewer.
For the second straight week, however, Coast Guard trailed 14-0 before making a game of it, falling 27-20 Saturday in the annual matchup for the Secretaries' Cup.
"We're a young team that's trying to do everything right and make it through youthful mistakes," said Coast Guard coach Bill George, whose team fell to 0-2.
"... We're not getting quite out of the box, but they're tough guys."
Sophomore quarterback Matthew McDaniels carried 31 times for 245 yards and three touchdowns for Merchant Marine (2-0), which has won three straight against Coast Guard.
Coast Guard battled back to lead 17-14 on a 13-yard touchdown run by Jake Wawrzyniak on the first possession of the second half, aided by a 37-yard reception by Collis Brown.
McDaniels responded for a 43-yard touchdown just over two minutes later, however, giving Merchant Marine a 21-17 lead with 9:38 left in the third quarter.
And after Coast Guard's Tyler Henning kicked a 40-yard field goal to pull within 21-20, McDaniels, leading the Mariners' triple-option attack, scored the final points of the game with 2:38 remaining on a 10-yard touchdown run.
Coast Guard maintained the 21-20 deficit until bobbling a snap on a punt with 2:59 to go and giving the Mariners the ball at the Coast Guard 16, allowing them to put the game away.
Coast Guard quarterback Blake Thompson was 13-for-35 for 158 yards, a better showing than a week ago when he struggled in his debut. Brown made four catches for 122 yards.
The Bears, having turned the ball over five times a week ago in a loss to St. Lawrence, had no turnovers against Merchant Marine, something George said was his biggest concern coming into the week.
On defense, Coast Guard recovered four fumbles, one each by Nick Phillips, Kyle Wood, Blake Bonifas and James Rizzo, with Woods' leading to Henning's second field goal of the game that made it 21-20.
Sophomore Joe Rizzardi blocked a punt, as well, for the Bears, while lineman Joel Wyman (12) and Phillips at linebacker (11) led the team in tackles.
Merchant Marine struck first on a 2-yard run by senior fullback Charles Helms with 10:04 left in the opening quarter, capping a 41-yard drive.
Following a Coast Guard punt, McDaniels' 4-yard touchdown with 5:17 left in the first quarter pushed the lead to 14-0.
The Bears got on the board on a 1-yard touchdown run by Thompson, followed by a 45-yard field goal from Henning that made it 14-10 at halftime.