Westfield State 43, Nichols 21

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WESTFIELD, Mass. - — Senior receiver Evan Berneche had five catches for 166 yards and a touchdown and also threw for a score, and senior defensive back Dave Jolicoeur scored two touchdowns, including a 90-yard interception return, to lead Westfield State University to a wild 43-21 season-opening football victory over Nichols College on Friday night, Sept. 3.

The opportunistic Owls, who led the nation in turnover margin last season, intercepted five passes, recovered two fumbles scored twice on offensive special teams play to overcome a 7-0 deficit after one quarter.

Westfield's first score - a one-yard run by Luke Johnson - was set up when sophomore defensive end Chris Walker recovered a fumble at the Nichols 8. Westfield took a 10-7 lead with 5:48 remaining in the first half on a 17-yard field goal by Chris Stengel.

The field goal followed a 56-yard pass reception by Berneche to the 1-yard line. The Owls were unable cross the goal line on three attempts and opted to take the three points.

Westfield took a 16-7 lead with 2:53 remaining on Jolicoeur's electrifying 90-yard interception return. Down lineman Keith Bateman set up the big return when he batted the ball high into the air on a first down pass attempt. Jolicoeur broke a tackle and outraced the Bison offensive for the thrilling TD.

Senior linebacker Bryan Anderson set up Westfield's next score with a brilliant diving interception at the Bison 38. On the first play, junior quarterback Tyler Dow and Berneche hooked up for a 38-yard scoring strike.

Nichols closed within eight points, 22-14, midway through the third period when it took advantage of one of two Westfield's turnovers, recovering a fumble at the Owl 27. Randy Hunter then caught a 17-yard TD pass from Sean Vaughan.

Westfield's longest scoring drive, 17 plays covering 77 yards, was capped with a touchdown on a perfectly executed fake field goal attempt. Berneche, Westfield's regular holder, took the snap, rolled to his right, and threw a 16-yard TD pass to Scott Erhardt, the Owls' starting middle linebacker.

Westfield took a 36-21 midway through the fourth quarter on freshman running back Kane Terilli's 29-yard touchdown run. This score was set up when Ryan O'Connell returned an interception 31 yards to the Bison 29.

Vaughan threw his third touchdown pass with 3:24 remaining, a 28-yard scoring strike to Mark Parker.

Westfield closed out the scoring with 1:46 remaining when Jolicoeur took an inside handoff on a fake punt attempt and sprinted 31 yards for a touchdown.

Dow completed 13 of 27 passes for 219 yards and no interceptions in his first college action. Westfield only had 89 net yards rushing on 32 attempts.

Vaughan completed 18 of 41 passes for 231 yards and three touchdowns but he had the four picks. Reggie Belizaire had five catches for 110 yards and Daquain Yarrell was the game's leading rusher with 71 yards on 14 carries.

Erhardt was the game's leading tackler with 11 stops, including eight solos.

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