The Yellowjackets had no need to be diplomatic while visiting the Hobart College Statesmen over Meliora Weekend, the 96th meeting between two of New York State’s most storied rivals. Outflanking the home team 17-13, UR displayed an impressive defensive acumen that carried the team to its first victory in Geneva since 1995 and improved its record in the Upstate Collegiate Athletic Association to 2-1 – 2-3 overall.

Limiting the Statesmen to 196 yards total offense, the Yellowjackets dominated the field defensively, producing six sacks, two interceptions, a blocked point after touchdown and field goal, and a fumble recovery.

“The defense really played an outstanding game from start to finish,” Head Coach Mark Kreydt said. Leading the way for UR was senior co-captain Sam Snowden, who produced a number of key plays that kept offensively charged Hobart at bay while allowing sophomore quarterback Aaron Molisani to pilot the offense with considerable elan in only his second collegiate start.

The Yellowjackets were in blitz mode for most of the first quarter, harrying Hobart quarterback Craig Swanson and forcing a number of incomplete passes and poorly executed plays. UR had its first chance to put numbers on the board when a punt return by Statesman Dan Suozzi was fumbled at the Hobart nine-yard line and recovered by sophomore linebacker Jeff Leslie.

Molisani was noticeably shaky in the first half, missing three consecutive passes to eligible receivers and having to settle for a 26-yard field goal by senior Chris Johnston. Nonetheless, the Yellowjackets were on the board and looking good.

As often happens, the coup was quickly reciprocated by the home team in like fashion, capitalizing on a fumble by sophomore receiver Dave Ferris to start their downs on UR’s own 22-yard line. The Yellowjacket defense limited the Statesmen to small gains, but starting nearly in the red zone, Hobart’s momentum was hard to break and Swanson had little difficulty in hitting Rick Pinero for a three-yard touchdown pass to put Hobart on top.

With the first half almost over and UR down by a score, Molisani began to settle down and anchored a 12-play, 65-yard drive. It consisted mostly of small gains by sophomore running back Jeff Ardnt with occasional passes from Molisani to Ferris and Pat Manuel, who played receiver and contributed with 31 yards on three catches. Molisani finished the drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Ferris followed by the PAT by Johnston to regain the lead 10-7.

“Patrick is a great athlete who I thought would contribute more on the field as a wide receiver than standing on the sidelines,” Kreydt said. “He is definitely going to continue playing in both the quarterback and wide receiver position.”

Hobart eked out one more touchdown before the halftime break, taking advantage of good field position to tack on a quick score off a nine-yard pass from Swanson to Suozzi. The attempted PAT, however, was blocked and returned by sophomore linebacker Matt Simon before the ref’s whistle called the play dead. Simon’s block would turn out to be crucial for the Yellowjackets, keeping UR four points ahead and forcing Hobart to try for a touchdown on their last drive.

The third quarter was a defensive showcase for both squads, opening with an interception by senior defensive back Chris Hargraves who returned the ball 18 yards to the UR 26-yard line. Several minutes later Snowden blocked a 41-yard field goal attempt by the Statesmen that was recovered at the Yellowjacket 19-yard line.

However, while the Yellowjacket defense impressed the crowd, so did their opposing counterparts, stymieing Molisani’s attempts to regain the lead. UR had a chance to march into Hobart territory after a long 18-yard pass from Molisani to Manuel that advanced the Yellowjackets to midfield, but a Hobart pileup jarred the ball loose and prematurely ended the Yellowjackets’ offensive drive. The exciting third quarter ended with impressive statistics but no change in score.

“We turned the ball over quite a bit, which is something I think we need to work on,” Kreydt said.

The opening of the fourth quarter proved to be the climatic moment in the contest, as the Yellowjackets combined skill and luck to drive 79 yards to touchdown and victory. Starting at their own 21-yard line, Ardnt rushed 15 yards in three plays to set up a seven-yard pass from Molisani to Ardnt.

At midfield, Hobart was charged with a personal foul that advanced UR 15 yards further downfield. The next three downs were incomplete passes from Molisani, but another Hobart blunder granted the Yellowjackets a second lease and another 15 yards to the opponents’ 21-yard line. From the red zone the Yellowjackets stuck to the ground and Molisani finished the drive with a one-yard touchdown run that put UR on top 17-13 for an exciting and moralizing victory.

The Yellowjackets are hoping that this victory will still be fresh when they travel to Union College next week.

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