In front of nearly 4,000 fans at Edwin Fauver Stadium, the UR football team claimed its fourth straight victory on Saturday, defeating Worcester Polytechnic Institute, 42-27. Behind a combined effort of 254 team rushing yards, the Yellowjackets cruised to their first home win of the season. The win puts the team above .500 for the first time this year, following a disappointing 0-3 start.
Senior running back Matt Bielecki amassed 95 rushing yards on only 15 attempts and scored two touchdowns before being replaced by freshman tailback Clarence Onyiriuka during the middle of the second quarter. Onyiriuka finished in similar fashion, scoring two touchdowns and racking up 95 yards of his own on 18 carries. Sophomore quarterback Adam Barrett had a productive day, finishing 19 for 28 with 208 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
During their 4-game winning streak, the ‘Jackets have scored an average of 34 points per game. Senior receiver Jay Jay Vanderstyne attributed the team’s recent success to improved offensive cohesion and an increase of confidence among the players.
“Recently, we have been more balanced on offense,” he said. “The run game has been there all year but now we are starting to throw the ball better. Our offensive line has done a great job giving Matt holes to run through and giving Adam time to throw.”
The defense struck early for UR, as freshman linebacker Patrick Hilson intercepted a pass from the Engineers’ quarterback Rob Pantalone only 16 seconds into the game. Bielecki finished a methodical 44-yard drive with a 3-yard run into the end zone to give the ‘Jackets a 7-0 lead.
WPI struck back, blocking a punt by sophomore kicker Andrew Knight. WPI’s Andrew Sides recovered the ball, setting up the Engineers’ offense from the UR 2-yard line. After holding the line twice, the ‘Jackets’ defense could not stop running back George Chyoghly from reaching the end zone, which brought the score level.
On the first drive of the second quarter, Pantalone drove WPI 43 yards to take the lead. He finished an impressive drive by throwing a 4-yard touchdown to receiver Mike Butler. Kicker Derek Pszybysz could not nail the extra point, giving WPI only a six-point advantage.
UR responded immediately, keeping the ball in the hands of the school’s all-time leading rusher. Bielecki ran the ball three times and capped a quick drive with a 20-yard run to the outside to give the team a one-point advantage, 14-13, with 10 minutes to play in the first half.
The ‘Jackets’ defense held, and the offense went back to work. Barrett completed three passes and ran for a 10-yard scramble before Onyiriuka picked up where Bielecki left off. He scored from one yard out to increase UR’s lead to eight.
Following another three-and-out by the WPI offense, Barrett completed a 31-yard pass to sophomore tight end Pedro Sosa at the 6-yard line. Onyiriuka was called upon again and delivered by getting into the end zone on his second attempt, stretching the UR lead in the process.
Early in the second half, the ‘Jackets took over on downs near midfield, following a failed fourth down conversion attempt. On the first play from scrimmage, Onyiriuka ran for 22 yards. Barrett completed three consecutive pass attempts, including a 5-yard lob to Vanderstyne in the end zone. Sophomore kicker Griffin Moar added on the extra point, giving UR a 22-point lead.
The Engineers would not go away easily, mounting an 8-play scoring drive. Pantalone completed a 20-yard pass to Chyoghly, bringing WPI back within two scores, 35-20.
After a fumble by Barrett, Pantalone completed two passes for 12 and 33 yards, respectively, getting WPI back into the end zone.
UR’s lead was down to eight, but that was as close as the visitors would come.
The Yellowjackets’ first drive of the fourth quarter pushed the lead back to two scores, effectively putting the game away. After a 34-yard completion to Vanderstyne, sophomore running back Paul Ferrese scored his first career touchdown from the 8-yard line. The defense held the Engineers scoreless three more times, which included two interceptions and one fourth-down sack.
Barrett pointed out the contributions from the rest of the team. He noted the good field position set up by senior Andy Rape on kick returns as well as the timely play from the defense.
“The defense has continued their great play – they have made a ton of big plays and have done an awesome job of shutting down our opponents’ run game and getting the ball back on offense,” Barrett said. “I think what we need to work on is staying focused in practice, continuing to execute at a high level and avoid careless penalties,” he added.
The team will face Susquehanna University at home on Saturday, Oct. 27 at noon. Susquehanna is currently winless in Liberty League play while UR stands in fourth place with three games to play.
Wasserman is a member of the class of 2010.