New London - Last week, after the defense gave up 695 yards in a four-point loss, Coast Guard Academy senior cornerback Drew Russo said he never felt worse after a football game.
"From camp we knew we were a good defense," Russo said. "It's been killing us, tearing us apart. The offense has been playing out of their minds and we need to be able to hold off a team. We felt like we owed it to them."
Coast Guard's defense not only improved Saturday, it registered its first shutout since 2007, this time combining with the offense for a 59-0 homecoming rout over Fitchburg State before 3,500 fans at Cadet Memorial Field.
Russo and Evan Rothfield each had interceptions and the Bears (2-2 overall, 1-1 New England Conference Bogan Division) sacked Fitchburg's quarterbacks four times.
Meanwhile, after leading just 10-0 at halftime, Coast Guard's offense put together a near-perfect second half, scoring on four straight drives in the third quarter and on seven straight possessions overall.
Wide receiver Pat Meggers set the school's single-game receiving record with 211 yards on seven catches, finishing with two touchdowns. A Jon Resch-to-Meggers 96-yard touchdown pass in the third also established the Coast Guard record for longest pass play. Both the single-game receiving record (188) and the longest catch (88) were previously set by Tom Wallin in 1998.
"We're a resilient group," Meggers said. "The defense was looking to fire out and show something. That combined with the offense ..."
Resch, who was 27-for-37 for 391 yards, threw three touchdowns and ran for one, all in the third quarter.
The Bears got the ball to start the half and Resch was 5-for-6 for 65 yards on the drive, including a 15-yard touchdown pass to Collis Brown (10 catches, 93 yards) that bumped the lead to 17-0.
On their next possession, the Bears took over at the Fitchburg 39. Resch scrambled to find Brown for 22 yards to the 1-yard line and ran it in from there.
He then threw a 9-yard touchdown to Meggers and, backed up at the Bears' own 4-yard-line, Resch found Meggers all alone behind the Fitchburg defense for the 96-yarder that made it 38-0 to end the quarter.
Backup quarterback Aaron Corn was 5-for-5 for 36 yards and a touchdown and ran for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Mark Behne fell on a fumble in the end zone to complete the scoring.
And that was all against a Fitchburg defense that was ranked first in the league in total yards per game (278.2) and first in pass defense (97.8 yards per game). Coast Guard outgained Fitchburg (2-3, 1-1) 512 yards to 246.
"I always look at one thing, the yards," Coast Guard coach Bill George said. "That's how you judge it. It tells you if you're playing good football."
Freshman Kyle Wood, making his first career start at linebacker, had a pair of sacks, finishing with seven tackles to lead the way along with lineman Aaron Black.
"We concentrated on some basic things (this week in practice), basic techniques," George said of the defense. "We have some young guys playing and they're getting better and better each game.
"It was hard for these guys; they went through a two and a half hour practice Tuesday after watching that film (from the Mass. Maritime game)."