For the second year in a row UR will have to cede Rochester area football bragging rights to St. John Fisher College as the Cardinals soundly defeated the Yellowjackets 27-17 Saturday night at Growney Stadium in Pittsford.
UR combined an early first quarter field goal by senior Chris Johnston with a 29-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Pat Manuel to senior wide receiver Brian Ferris to take a 10-6 lead at the half, but the Cardinals rebounded in the third quarter with a dominating running game, scoring twice in nine minutes to overcome the small deficit to take the lead for good leaving UR winless at 0-2.
St. John Fisher improved to 2-0 with the win.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game, its a heated rivalry and we were going to their place on their homecoming,” sophomore linebacker Kevin Burns said.
The Yellowjackets’ defense – having already proven itself a valuable asset last week versus the dominant Johns Hopkins offense – continued to shine in the opening drive of Saturday’s match-up. Sophomore linebacker Jeff Leslie intercepted a pass from Cardinal quarterback Greg Roland at Fisher’s own 35-yard line and returned the ball 12 yards back – close to the opponent’s red zone.
From there, senior running back Gerard Hopkins drove 15 yards in two plays to the Cardinals’ 5-yard line but an incomplete pass and false start penalty against UR forced the Yellowjackets to settle for a field goal rather than a touchdown.
Johnston booted the 25-yard field goal to put UR up 3-0. With his second field goal of the season, Johnston is now number four on the UR all-time kicking list with 10 field goals to his name.
The Cardinals tied UR early in the second quarter with a 22-yard field goal set up by a 66-yard rush by running back Jason Meyers.
The Yellowjackets responded in turn with an 11-play, 71-yard drive highlighted by two receptions from Manuel to Ferris for 28 and 29 yards respectively.
Johnston’s point after attempt was good and the Yellowjackets were up 10-3 on the Cardinals with only 56 seconds left in the first half.
St. John Fisher then kicked into hurry-up mode and strung together an impressive 52-yard drive that carried the Cardinals from their own 39-yard line to UR’s nine-yard line and executed a 26-yard field goal before time expired to reduce their point deficit to 10-6.
There was a palpable shift of momentum as both teams emerged for the second half. St. John Fisher had celebrated their homecoming with a halftime fireworks display that left the field smoky and forced the Yellowjackets into a 15-yard delay of game penalty, killing an otherwise promising offensive drive.
“The penalty at the start of the second half was important,” Ferris commented. “If we had scored it would of been a completely different game.”
Starting with the third quarter, St. John Fisher put its offensive game into the capable hands of Meyers who conducted the UR secondary all over the gridiron before taking the ball 26-yards into the endzone to take the lead from the Yellowjackets. Meyers rushed for an amazing 385 yards and three touchdowns versus the Yellowjackets on 41 carries, averaging 9.4 yards per carry.
UR fumbled on its ensuing drive putting possession back into a hungry Cardinal offense that wasted no time in letting Meyers do what he does best – rush 54 yards on six plays and another touchdown for St. John Fisher.
Down by ten, the Yellowjackets were looking to score quickly and advanced to St. John Fisher’s 34-yard line with a 14-yard carry by Manuel.
Sophomore running back Jeff Ardnt was then pushed back a yard to the 35-yard line. Manuel was sacked and had a pass broken up to set up a fourth down and twelve yards to go situation on the 36-yard line.
Going for the risky first down, the Yellowjackets pulled through in the clutch with Manuel hitting Ferris for a 16-yard gain to give UR four more downs inside Fisher’s red zone. Ardnt ran 16 more yards to the Cardinal four-yard line and took the ball in himself two plays later for UR’s second touchdown.
Unfortunately, the Yellowjacket defense was still unable to contain the Cardinal running game and Meyers scored his third touchdown of the evening less than two minutes later to leave the final score at 17-27.
Two tough losses, however, have done little to damage team morale.
“Those two games didn’t mean anything,” Ferris said. “We have four games in the UAA and four in the UCAA, all very winnable.”
Schloss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.