After two disappointing losses in a row against Hobart College and St. Lawrence University, the UR football program was ready to play with some heart at last weekend?s homecoming.
And in front of 4,000-plus roaring alumni, family and friends, the Yellowjackets did not disappoint. UR won 25-20.
The Yellowjackets opened its University Athletic Association season with a solid 25-20 victory against the University of Chicago.
?I give the kids a lot of credit,? head coach Mark Kreydt said. ?We put ourselves in situations where we had to make big plays.?
And the Yellowjacket defense successfully executed the ?big plays? Kreydt knew they needed early. UR scored three touchdowns off Chicago turnovers.
Chicago came into the match up against UR with an average of more than 450 offensive yards per game and, after the first possession, the Yellowjackets knew they could not slack.
Slow start for UR
The Maroons marched down the field to take a 7-0 lead early on an eight-yard TD pass from Chicago?s Josh Dunn to Brian Gutbrod.
But the Yellowjackets forged back. With 7:42 left in the first quarter, sophomore cornerback Kassim Howell scooped up a fumble at the Chicago?s 41-line and raced down the side for a TD, shaving the Maroon lead to 7-6.
About four minutes later, Dunn?s pass was tipped by sophomore CB Isaac Standish and caught by senior safety Mike Newcomb at the 6 yard-line.
The intercept resulted in a 94-yard TD that ignited the spirit of the Yellowjackets. UR would not give up the lead.
Newcomb?s run down the sidelines broke UR?s previous record of 79 yards that was set by Sam Gagliardi against Union College in 1995.
?I didn?t know I could run that long,? Newcomb said. But he knew he would ?never hear the end of it if [he] was caught from behind.?
UR offense answers
Then, junior running back John Breedy wrapped up a 73-yard, 6-play drive for a TD to finish up first quarter action. The play proceeded Howell?s five-yard interception, putting the Yellowjackets in field-goal range.
In the second quarter, junior running back Greg Lozeau opened the offense by scoring with a four-yard TD. Senior kicker Brad Hartman made the point after touchdown, racking up UR?s lead over Chicago to 25-7.
But the Maroons were relentless. Chicago began its comeback at the tail of the first half when Roman Natoli kicked a 30-yard field goal.
Natoli was not finished either. Pumped up from halftime, he kicked a 25-yarder early in the third quarter to pull the Maroons to a score of 25-13.
With 1:03 left in the third, UR?s offense hit a glitch. Senior QB Jeff Piscitelli had to depart the game with a knee injury.
But sophomore quarterback Patrick Fitzsimmons stepped in for the challenge and helped steer the the team through the rest of the game.
Piscitelli?s experience and leadership was well known to the squad and the fans understood the magnitude of this substitution. However, Fitzsimmons took the pressure with relative ease.
?[I] just did what I?ve been told to do, what I?ve been coached,? he said.
And for the rest of the half, Fitzsimmons emerged from Piscitelli?s shadow to guide the Yellowjackets.
He shot down the middle to the six-yard line for the first down. Breedy then fought his way ahead for a yard on second down, bringing UR to third-and-five.
To gain first down, Fitzsimmons faked a pass to then scurry around the right end for a 19-yard gain.
But Fitzimmons was not done. The QB ran for eight more to start off the round of plays. Lozeau and Breedy then got the ball to the 42-yard line.
The Yellowjackets finished off Chicago by putting on a remarkable defensive stand late in the game, turning back the Maroon?s offense on fourth-and-goal from its own two yard-line with less than five minutes left on the clock.
?Patrick came into a tough situation,? Kreydt said. ?He made some great runs and some great plays.?
Kreydt credits Fitzsimmons for coming through with a lack of intense run-throughs.
?Jeff?s taken most of the reps in practice,? he said. ?Patrick did a nice job. I give him a lot of credit.?
And Fitzsimmons will have the rest of the season to prove himself again. Piscitelli, the four-year veteran quarterback, was diagnosed with a right torn anterior cruciate ligament and a detached lateral cruciate ligament. He had also damaged some of his nerves. However, his posterior cruciate ligament remains intact.
He had surgery to repair his ACL yesterday and he will be out of action for the rest of the season. The approximate period of recovery is 8-10 months of intensive rehabilitation therapy.
?[Piscitelli] has had an exceptional career here,? Kreydt said.
?He is our all-time leading passer and we are certainly going to miss him.?
?It?s a tough loss, but Jeff doesn?t want us to feel sorry for him,? Kreydt added.
Kreydt also doesn?t think that the team should use Piscitelli?s absence as an excuse.
?We have to move on and rise to the challenge. All of us are going to try to shoulder his load,? he said.
UR will test its newfound spirit on the road this Saturday as they travel to Washington University in St. Louis.
The Bears are currently the leaders in the UAA and will prove to be a challenge for the Yellowjackets.
Additional reporting by Emily Hickey.Wu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.