The UR offense was smoking in the first half of Saturday’s contest with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, building a 20-7 lead early in the second quarter before being doused by the Engineers in a late game rally that culminated in a 47-26 Yellowjackets’ loss.

After holding off RPI for four straight downs following the opening kickoff, the UR offense, anchored by sophomore quarterback Aaron Molisani quickly ignited, coupling a one yard run by senior running back Gerard Hopkins with a 70-yard bomb from Molisani to sophomore receiver Dave Ferris to score the first touchdown of the game. Senior kicker Chris Johnston added the PAT to put UR ahead by seven.

Molisani, made his first career start after playing in last week’s game versus St. Lawrence. “I gave Aaron the opportunity to start and he really took advantage of that and made a quick start with some long throws,” Head Coach Mark Kreydt said. “With Pat [Manuel] we have a player who was the UCAA Rookie of the Year, but Aaron has improved his level and came out and had a really strong day.”

The Engineers responded with a touchdown of their own on the next drive. A nine-yard pass , putting the brakes on a possible UR shutout of the historically dominant RPI. Indeed, it appeared as if UR’s early game fortunes had reversed completely on RPI’s next drive, as the Engineers marched steadily from their own 28-yard line to within two yards of UR’s goalline. Turning to the running game, the Engineers gave the ball to Otis Williams, who rushed to the goalline before being stopped by a massive pileup. When the stack was cleared the football was undeniably in the end zone, but safely cradled in the arms of a Yellowjacket defenseman. Williams had fumbled the ball and the Yellowjackets had recovered possession. Breathing a collective sigh of relief, the UR offense took the field starting at their own 20-yard line.

Sophomore running back Jeff Ardnt rushed 37 yards in the next three plays to bring the Yellowjackets into RPI’s half of the field, quickly followed by a 42-yard pass from Molisani to senior receiver Patrick Roman that brought UR within one yard of their second touchdown. Ardnt finished the drive, rushing one yard for the touchdown with 1:14 left in the first quarter. Johnston added one with the PAT to increase UR’s lead to 14-7.

The Yellowjackets built their greatest lead minutes later in their opening drive of the second quarter as Molisani connected again with Roman for a 40 yard touchdown pass. Molisani, who passed for 288 yards on the day, completed 13 out of 35 attempted passes and converted two touchdowns while running one in himself. Johnston missed the extra point, adding another six points on UR’s total to put them at a 20-7 lead.

After essentially shutting down the Engineer offense for most of the first half, the UR defense began to show cracks as the second quarter drew to a close, allowing long gains and a one-yard touchdown run by Williams to put RPI within one touchdown of tying the game.

“We played a strong first half on both sides,” Kreydt said. “We went into the locker rooms at the half with a 26-20 lead so we felt like we had a shot to win the game. Unfortunately we had opportunities in the second half to make some plays that we didn’t take advantage of.”

Save for a late fourth quarter touchdown by Molisani – who ran two yards to cross the goalline to bring UR’s final tally to 26 – the second half was essentially an RPI offensive slug fest that kept the Yellowjackets scrambling to keep up. Engineer kicker Matt Verenini booted a 37-yard field goal and was followed two minutes later by a touchdown pass.

Verenini added another three points with a 34-yard attempt and when the dust cleared on the third quarter, RPI had taken the lead 26-20.

The fourth quarter was just as bad as the third for the thoroughly deflated Yellowjackets as the Engineers scored three more touchdowns to leave the final score 47-26. Speaking of the Yellowjackets second-half falter, Kreydt sees the game as one of missed chances.

“We had a couple of missed tackles, a couple of breakdowns on special teams that cost us field position,” Kreydt noted. “Basically, RPI is a very good team, and you can’t do those things and come out on top. You have to come close to playing mistake-free football.”

Schloss can be reached at aschloss@campustimes.org.



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