There was a big crowd on hand Saturday afternoon to witness a thrilling contest between the UR Yellowjackets and nationally ranked Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Although the Yellowjackets were unable to steal a win from the 24th ranked Engineers, UR led RPI for the entire first half before ultimately succumbing 31-19 to the visitors. UR Head Coach Mark Kreydt is quick to point out the strides made by his gridders in only a few short weeks. “I think that we are a much different football team than we were Sept. 14 against St. John Fisher. One thing we’ve been able to do is improve every week ? that part excites me.”

The Yellowjackets were quick to hit their stride, rousing the crowd as junior Brian Ferris returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. Junior Chris Johnston missed the extra kick, making the score 6-0 UR before either side’s special teams had left the field. The Yellowjackets continued to raise eyebrows as a pass from RPI QB Dan Cole was intercepted by UR defensive back and junior Kasim Howell on only the second play from scrimmage. The Yellowjacket offense, led by freshman quarterback Pat Manuel was quick to take charge of the situation, driving to the Engineers’ 2-yard line. Senior John Breedy ran the ball past the goal line, but the Yellowjackets were charged with a holding penalty, forcing UR to attempt a 25-yard field goal rather than a touchdown. Johnston pulled through, sending the ball soaring through the uprights to increase UR’s lead to 9-0 with 10:31 left in the first quarter.

UR continued to outplay RPI throughout the first quarter, containing the Engineers’ offense thanks to heavy pressure on quarterback Cole from the UR defense, notably junior Sam Snowden and freshmen Kevin Coker and Matt Kelley. Taking over possession at the UR 29-yard line, a quick pass from Manuel to junior Patrick Roman advanced the Yellowjackets nearer to midfield. Breedy then carried the ball 49 yards in six plays to take the Yellowjackets deep into the Engineer red zone. Again, UR was unable to cap off the drive with a touchdown, settling instead for a 31-yard field goal by Johnston that increased UR’s lead to 12-0. Kreydt later commented that this inability to score touchdowns was a big factor in allowing RPI to catch up. “We had an opportunity to increase the gap of scores, but instead of coming away with touchdowns, we came away with field goals.”

The Engineers ended UR’s shutout on the next series of plays, as RPI running back Pat Hughes worked a quick toss from Cole into a 47-yard touchdown run. The Engineers’ extra point was scored by kicker Mike Defilippi. UR quickly rebounded, making up for the loss as sophomore Benji Waller fell on a fumbled pass from Cole, returning offensive possession to the Yellowjackets at RPI’s 8-yard line. Breedy smashed ahead for a six yard gain, and then ran the last two yards untouched for a UR touchdown. Johnston’s extra point was good, making the score 19-7 with 9:53 left in the first half.

The Engineers then commenced a long, clock-eating 18-play drive that advanced RPI to the Yellowjacket 8-yard, where Howell broke up a key pass forcing RPI to try for a field goal. The 24-yard attempt by Matt Verenini was no good, but a penalty on UR gave the Engineers another shot. The wind was strong and the second attempt, for 21-yards, was also no good, leaving the Engineers with nothing as the clock ticked down to halftime.

RPI emerged from halftime hungrier than ever, scoring its second touchdown of the game on the first play of the second half. Cole spiraled a pass to receiver Flynn Cochran who outmaneuvered UR defenders to score a 48-yard touchdown. Verenini scored the extra point, reducing UR’s lead to 19-14. The Yellowjackets then lost the lead, never to regain it, when Brett Hanson of RPI recovered a Yellowjacket fumble and retuned the bounty 53 yards to score a touchdown. Cole hit Cochran for a successful two-point conversion to leave the scoreboard reading 19-22, RPI.

The UR defense performed admirably in the second half, but the caliber of the Engineer offense was too great for the young Yellowjacket defense. The Yellowjackets made some great plays, including multiple sacks and an interception in the second half, but the number of successful plays the Engineers were able to execute ultimately defeated the Yellowjackets. The Engineers scored their only field goal of the day, a long 41-yarder by Verenini with 3:09 left in the third quarter Yellowjacket defense. The Yellowjackets made some great plays, including multiple sacks and an interception in the second half, but the number of successful plays the Engineers were able to execute ultimately defeated the Yellowjackets. The Engineers scored their only field goal of the day, a long 41-yarder by Verenini with 3:09 left in the third quarter to increase RPI’s lead to 19-25. RPI scored once more in the fourth quarter, a 2-yard touchdown run by Cochran. The attempted 2-pt. conversion was no good, leaving the final score 19-31.

Looking back at the game, Kreydt said that, “there was a space in the beginning of the third quarter where we had the opportunity to make some plays, but didn’t. Their offense was simply able to make more plays than we were able to.”

The Yellowjackets are busy preparing for the Meliora Game versus Hobart, another strong opponent who is undefeated as yet in the season.

“The one thing I know I can do is walk into a room, put a video of the game on, and be able to illustrate the ways in which we’ve improved from Week 1 to Week 4,” said Kreydt. “We are going to improve and continue to get better. Are we satisfied? Absolutely not. Are we disappointed in the outcome of some of the games so far? Yes, we are. Are we a broken team? No way!”

Schloss can be reached at aschloss@campustimes.org.



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