On Saturday, Sept. 8, the UR football team won their season opener at home for the first time in 11 years, defeating Thiel College 17-7. The conditions were wet, slippery and miserable, but the weather did not appear to have too much of an effect on either team. In fact, there were relatively few dropped passes, with both teams executing lengthy drives downfield.
The Yellowjackets got hot quickly, pulling ahead early on. In just his second career start, junior quarterback Dean Kennedy started scoring early, with both of his touchdowns coming in the first quarter. After receiving on the kickoff, UR wore out Thiel with a 69-yard drive that took six minutes. The drive culminated with a screen pass to senior running back Chris Lebano for a 19-yard touchdown. Kennedy also threw a 50-yard pass to junior wide receiver Garrett Kesel, who blew past Thiel’s secondary, later on in the first quarter. The ’Jackets’ offense couldn’t do much after that point and relied primarily on their defense to maintain the lead.
The defense managed to hold Thiel to zero points until late in the third quarter. After a 61-yard drive that ate up nearly one-half of the third quarter, Thiel running back Taylor Fink weaved his way into the end zone on a one-yard run. That drive, which was Thiel’s most successful, saw only four passes on 13 plays, with Fink doing most of the work, pounding away at UR’s defensive line. Fink carried the ball eight times for 22 yards on that drive and Thiel quarterback Andrew Smith scrambled once for nine yards.
In the fourth quarter, the Tomcats pushed from their own 25 yard line to the UR 26. Three plays into the drive, senior inside linebacker Brendan Pidgeon forced Smith to fumble the ball, but UR failed to capitalize on it and Thiel recovered. The drive concluded with Smith failing to complete a crucial 4th-and-1 pass.
The ’Jackets responded by driving downfield and setting up senior kicker Alex Antonucci for a 40-yard field goal with 2:34 remaining, which sealed UR’s victory. Thiel then got the ball back and, with 26 seconds left, Smith threw an interception to senior cornerback Cole Valko. Valko’s pick was the final nail in Thiel’s coffin.
Kennedy finished with 151 yards and two touchdowns on 64 percent accuracy. He also rushed for 72 yards. Lebano picked up 79 yards
with a 3.3 average, failing to score on the ground. However, he also caught two receptions for 32 yards and a touchdown. Junior cornerback Jordan Honjiyo was the most prolific defender, making five plays in a single drive, forcing Thiel to punt. This came at the end of the second quarter, when Honjiyo made four tackles and hurried Smith. He had 10 tackles total. Junior outside linebacker Zach Cicero also had 10 tackles. Pidgeon and junior inside linebacker Shawn Burke each had a sack as well. The team takes on St. John Fisher College in the Courage Bowl in Pittsford, N.Y. on Saturday, Sept. 15.
Ondo is a member of the class of 2014.