LIU Post hoped to contain the rushing attack on Saturday, and they undoubtedly thrived.
The Pioneers’ gave an inspired effort on defense, limiting Merrimack College to only 37 yards on 28 rushing attempts in a 37-20 Northeast-10 road victory.
Post coach Bryan Collins said the Pioneers wanted to make the Warriors one-dimensional and force Merrimack quarterback Cam Hayes to beat them. Hayes had 308 yards passing and three touchdowns, but completed just 21 of 41 passes with two interceptions.
“Defensively we wanted to stop their running game and make them throw,” Collins said. “We did a lot of work on line movements and had a good game-plan coming in. Two of the touchdowns they scored were on scrambles, which can be tough to defend, so we planned it great at the line.”
Post quarterback Chris Laviano completed 27 of 42 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns. The Glen Head native and former Rutgers quarterback also threw an interception and lost a fumble.
“The receivers made some good contested catches when I was scrambling,” Laviano said. “They’re great at going up and catching those 50-50 balls.”
The big strike of the day came on Michael Richardson’s 40-yard touchdown reception with 3:15 left in the first half, capping off a 20-point quarter and giving the Pioneers a 20-0 advantage entering the locker room. He was a force throughout the contest, hauling in seven catches for 116 yards and a score.
“Mike’s just a very reliable guy,” Laviano said. “He’s smart and a great leader. In the critical situations you can always count on him to make a play.”
Laviano opened the scoring with 8:17 remaining in the first quarter by sneaking in a 1-yard rushing touchdown. A 23-yard interception by defensive back Kasim Thomas on the Merrimack 5-yard line set up a Malik Pierre touchdown carry on the ensuing play to extend the Post lead to 13-0.
Laviano tacked on two more touchdown passes in the second half. Post took its biggest lead at 34-7 six seconds into the fourth thanks to a 1-yard pass to Deon Mash.
Despite moving to 4-0, Collins has higher expectations after the Pioneers committed seven penalties for 90 yards.
“Being 4-0 is great, but we feel that we still haven’t played great football, what our expectation is of playing Post football,” Collins said. “We’ve played well enough to win and we need to challenge ourselves to play and compete even better every week.”
“I think we’re getting better as a team, but I don’t think we’re anywhere close to where we could be,” Laviano said. “We have a lot of things to clean up and do this week in practice.”
— Mike Ruiz