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LIU remains winless after loss to Merrimack

LIU quarterback Camden Orth (12) hands off the

LIU quarterback Camden Orth (12) hands off the ball to running back Jonathan DiBique for a gain around the left side during the first half of the game at Hickox Field on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

After four road defeats to open the season, it felt good for the LIU football team to be back in Brookville on Saturday for the homecoming game.

"Every game is uplifting and every game, there’s a general sense of excitement," said interim head coach Jonathan Gill. "Obviously, homecoming increases those feelings."

But the result was more of the same for the Sharks, who lost to Merrimack, 43-5, before 1,149 at Bethpage Federal Credit Union Stadium in a game that was carried by ESPN3.

Westin Elliott threw five touchdown passes for Merrimack (4-3, 1-2 Northeast Conference).

LIU (0-5, 0-2) has been outscored by a total of 247-32 this season.

LIU started its third Division I (FCS) season with road games against non-conference teams FIU, West Virginia and Miami. The Sharks lost all three by a combined 149-17 before a 55-10 conference defeat at St. Francis.

"I explained to (the players) that we are attempting to build something," Gill said. "And when you build things, there are going to be tough days. As long as you believe in hard work, you believe in the ability to do the best you can do at all times and never waver in your confidence in the plan, you will see the pot of gold at the end of the tunnel."

Saturday’s game started ominously when Camden Orth was sacked and fumbled at his own 18 on LIU’s first possession. Merrimack took a 7-0 lead on Elliott’s 10-yard pass to Pat Conroy.

Merrimack made it 13-0 early in the second quarter when Elliott found Jacari Carter for a 3-yard touchdown.

The extra point was good, but a Merrimack penalty forced a re-kick and led to the first good thing to happen for LIU – a blocked extra point attempt. Tariq Snead scooped up the ball and ran it back to the end zone to make the score 13-2.

Merrimack’s ensuing kickoff went out of bounds, giving LIU a start at its own 40. Was a momentum shift brewing?

Baldwin’s Jonathan DeBique ran for 22 yards on first down and the Sharks made it to the Merrimack 25.

After a sack and penalty led to fourth-and-18 from the 33, Orth (7-for-18, 91 yards) tried gamely to keep the drive alive. He scrambled for 17, but fumbled one yard away from the first down.

Elliott then tossed his third touchdown when he hit running back Jamari Venter with a 26-yard pass with 41 seconds left in the half. After a two-point conversion, LIU faced a 21-2 deficit.

The Sharks didn’t go quietly into halftime, however. Orth hit Massapequa Park’s Owen Glascoe and Tosin Oyekanmi with big pass plays to give LIU a first down at the Merrimack 19 with 14 seconds left. A 23-yard field goal by Paul Inzerillo made the score 21-5 at the half.

But Elliott threw two more TDs in the second half and LIU was held scoreless.

Gill said he used the example of a well-known future NFL MVP in his postgame message to his players.

"I was telling the team that the reason Tom Brady became Tom Brady was he went through a lot of dark days to become that," he said. "It took him five years just to get on the field at Michigan. He went through a lot of days, I’m sure, when he doubted himself. Some days when he wondered, ‘Is this ever going to happen for me?’ But if you stick to the process, it will turn around."

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