In the inaugural Centennial Cup against Hobart College, the football team went home without a trophy, ending their six-game winning streak and their chance at the Liberty League title by a score of 30-14. Although senior running back Matt Bielecki carried the ball 42 times and led a strong offensive unit, UR’s missed opportunities and Hobart’s two successful back-to-back offensive drives late in the game gave the Statesmen the lead they needed to depart UR with a win.
Despite strong defense led by senior inside linebacker Joe Gallantini and junior defensive back Sean Simpson, the Statesmen struck first with just under five minutes to go in the first quarter. Starting with the ball on the 45-yard line, Hobart quarterback Andrew Strom led a charge downfield, culminating in a 20-yard touchdown pass to Zach Schulz.
The Yellowjackets did not falter though, and in the second quarter responded with seven points of their own. In a charge commanded by Bielecki, who rushed for 59 yards in 14 plays, sophomore quarterback Adam Barrett’s offense took the ball 70 yards to put some numbers of their own on the board. Successful rushing by freshman running back Clarence Onyiriuka helped the ‘Jackets tie it up.
But Hobart proved not to be fazed and responded to the touchdown by going on a 4-play, 47-yard drive back to the end zone in just 42 seconds to put the Statesmen on top once again. On their next possession, the ‘Jackets could not penetrate Hobart’s defense, and when they gave the ball up, the Statesmen took advantage, increasing their lead to 13 points with another successful passing play to the end zone.
The team went into the locker room at halftime, down 20-7, and discussed the changes it would need to make on both offense and defense to try to get back into it.
Bielecki’s rushing was, once again, the catalyst to do just that. In a drive made up of Bielecki possessions and pass completions to senior wide receiver Jay Jay Vanderstyne and Onyiriuka, UR dominated the first few minutes of the second half. When Bielecki took the pigskin 13 yards into the paint, the ‘Jackets cut the lead to a touchdown.
Unfortunately, however, a few penalties and missed opportunities prevented the ‘Jackets from putting any more numbers on the board. Hobart’s kicker Dominick Ancona added three points to the scoreboard, and the Statesmen then added another touchdown to their lead.
When the Yellowjackets got the ball back and started to turn up the pressure, Barrett’s pass was intercepted by Lance Boyington at the 2-yard line, and the Hobart offense was able to capitalize on that opportunity as well.
“We came out in the third quarter after being down by two touchdowns, and the defense stopped first possession and the offense got momentum going but then the offense couldn’t keep it going on the next drive,” Bielecki said.
With this win, Hobart improved to 8-2 overall, and 6-1 in the Liberty League, which is equal to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, who will share the Liberty League title with them.
“We started off 0-3, we lost the first three games, and we turned the season around with [a] six-game winning streak, ability was just great,” Bielecki said. “I was really proud of the whole team effort. I think we had good leadership to get the team motivated.”
This Sunday, the ‘Jackets travel to Alfred University to compete in the Eastern College Athletic Conference Northwest Bowl Championships.
“The team looks forward to playing this weekend and to end the season on a good note,” Bielecki said.
Paret is a member of the class of 2008.