A stingy defense and a flurry of big plays on offense sparked UR to a victory at home in its Upstate Collegiate Athletic Association opener against St. Lawrence University last Saturday.

The Yellowjackets ran away with a score of 31-13.

The defense was rock solid throughout the contest, refusing to allow the Saints any leeway.

The D-line, consisting of seniors Alex Wagner and John Woods as well as sophomores Sam Snowden and Dave Liebetreu, dominated the line of scrimmage all game long, never letting St. Lawrence get into an offensive groove.

Any scraps left behind by the line were gnarled to pieces by senior linebacker and co-captain Brian Kowalski. Kowalski had a monster day for the home team, amassing 16 total tackles.

The offensive line wasn?t too shabby either.

A total of nine plays went for 20 yards or more, including three touchdowns.

?It comes down to making some big plays,? head coach Mark Kreydt said. And the Yellowjackets did just that.

QB Jeff Piscitelli came out firing right from the start. On a 3rd-and-20 situation in his own end of the field, Piscitelli hit receiver Brian Ferris for a drive-saving 33-yard gain.

Two plays later, Piscitelli faked a handoff out of the shotgun formation and burst up the middle on his own.

After cutting across the grain to the right, he was off to the races.

Thirty yards later, Piscitelli got his payback for UR offensively, giving them the early lead.

Place-kicker Chris Johnston clanked the right upright on the extra point attempt, but a roughing the kicker penalty on the Saints gave him another chance for the extra point. This time, he didn?t disappoint, and UR was ahead 7-0.

Later in the first quarter, an fumble by UR?s Kassim Howell on a punt return gave the Saints an excellent opportunity to get on the board. But the UR defense reversed the tides quickly, recovering a fumble of their own two plays later.

On the ensuing possession, Kreydt employed a little chicanery to lead UR to another TD.

On the first play of the drive, Piscitelli handed off to right-back junior Gerard Hopkins, who in turn handed to receiver junior Justin Davis on a reverse.

Davis carried the ball across the whole field before unexpectedly pulling up and firing a pass downfield to Ferris for a 36-yard gain down to the St. Lawrence 7-yard line. Hopkins scored a TD on the next play, and Johnston converted the extra point, giving UR a 14-0 advantage on a very efficient two-play, 43-yard TD drive.

The second quarter was filled with more successful play by UR.

A 20-yard play-action TD pass from Piscitelli to tight end Joe Spilman, set up by a nifty 15-yard reception by Ferris, gave UR a 21-0 lead. The defense kept up their intensity throughout the quarter.

The third stanza didn?t start so smoothly for the Yellowjackets. Howell muffed yet another punt to give the Saints good field position.

But the defense was able to bail UR out, forcing a St. Lawrence punt and not allowing them to capitalize on Howell?s miscue.

On the next drive, Hopkins exploded through a gaping hole over the left tackle and scored an impressive 49-yard touchdown, bringing the UR lead up to 28. Now the odds of a Saints comeback were slim to none.

The only question left was to see if the UR defense could hold onto its shutout. Two consecutive Saints drive starting from the UR 20-yard line would make the defense earn a goose egg.

UR held fast on the first of these possessions, stopping the Saints on 4th and goal from the 4.

But the second try proved more fruitful for the St. Lawrence Saints. Later, an awesome diving catch by sophomore receiver Patrick Roman for 49 yards gave UR yet another fine opportunity to score some more points. Johnston?s right leg would cash in on the situation with a 29-yard field goal, making it 31-7 to end the third quarter.

The fourth quarter was more of the same defensive struggle. UR remained relentless, led by a sack from freshman Matt Kelley. But the Saints were still fighting for some respectability.

St. Lawrence?s final attempt nailed the left upright, providing one final embarrassment for the Saints in their 31-13 loss.

This weekend, UR will try to continue its winning ways on the road at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

?We took a step forward,? Kreydt said about the St. Lawrence win. ?And we have a challenge next week that we need to take an even greater stride for.?

Pisco can be reached at jpisco@campustimes.org.

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