BENNINGTON >> With a hyped homecoming crowd, it looked like it would be a strong chance for the Mount Anthony football team to get its first win of the year over Rice.
Then the rains came and that changed the plans a little bit as the weather played into their opponent's hands.
The Knights' Jack Fitzgerald was the workhorse of the night, carrying the ball 34 times for 155 yards and two touchdowns in a 12-0 victory on a wet, cold night at Spinelli Field.
"The weather definitely played a factor, even just a wet, slick field," said MAU coach John Martin. "We're a spread team and that makes us a little one-dimensional. We also lost [receiver] Will Fischer [to injury] in the first quarter and he's a playmaker, so that was huge for us."
Still in a scoreless tie at halftime, Rice had a handful of possessions in the third quarter with a short field and that led to the first score of the night.
After a Rice punt reached the end zone, MAU took it at the 20. Two incompletions and an intentional grounding made it 3rd and 22 at their own eight. A sack made it 4th and 28 at the two and a Ryan O'Neill punt was returned back to the 24-yard line.
Five Fitzgerald runs later, and on the second play of the fourth quarter, Rice scored on an outside run from 11 yards out to take the lead.
"We really fought and I like to see that all night long," Martin said. "We had a fumble here, drop there but they kept at it, which is great."
Mount Anthony had three chances in the fourth quarter to get the equalizing score. O'Neill completed a pass to Cole Bushee but the sophomore fumbled it. After an interception from Jayson Schillberg, O'Neill fumbled a damp football on the next play to give the ball back.
The MAU defense kept Rice out of the end zone on the next series, but four straight incompletions at its own seven gave Rice the opportunity to seal it and Fitzgerald did on a 2-yard TD run, his 34th carry of the night.
"It was a huge win for us, a huge confidence boost and momentum for the next game," Fitzgerald said. "It was all a big team effort. In the first half we switched it up a little bit, he stepped it up there and we got the [win]."
On the offensive side of the ball, the Patriots struggled, only coming up with 82 yards of total offense. O'Neill carried 16 times for 28 yards, while Schillberg had six carries and 20 yards.
Defensively, the Patriots were strong, allowing only the two scores and not much else as Rice ended up with 13 negative rushing plays.
"Schilly coming back was big for us and we changed the defense a little bit," Martin said. "It was definitely our best game on defense so far and the points on the board showed that. We made them punt but they have a kid they can give it to 30 times a game and they can ground it out at you and eventually they break one."
MAU travels to Rutland, the defending Division I champion, on Friday night.