UR’s energy was put to the test during a dramatic seesaw battle in which the St. John Fisher Cardinals secured a 38-34 win over the Yellowjackets with a late-game fourth-quarter touchdown.
“The atmosphere of the game was intense,” junior linebacker Ray Finocchio said of the crowd of roughly 4,000. “You could feel the crowd’s energy and feed off it.”
Down by two points, Fisher took over after a UR punt and turned to their vaunted running attack. With 23 seconds to go, Fisher running back Mark Robinson finished the final 60-yard march with a six-yard run.
UR had one final chance when a 16-yard screen pass to sophomore Pat O’Brien put them near midfield. However, junior quarterback Aaron Molisani’s last second Hail-Mary prayer went unanswered.
That ending fit a game that was exciting from beginning to end. Turning the crowd on early, junior Mike Dermody raced 80 yards off the game’s opening kickoff. Dermody attributed 174 total return yards to his teammates.
“The success of the return stands with the other 10 guys on the field,” Dermody said. Molisani finished what Dermody had started with a nine-yard scamper into the Fisher endzone.
Not to be outdone, Fisher scored on their opening drive with a 37-yard field goal that cut the Yellowjacket lead to three. Rochester extended its lead on the next drive when Molisani found junior David Ferris for a four-yard touchdown.
Fisher tied the game in the second quarter with 10 unanswered points – a Will Bean field goal and a Robinson touchdown run. UR’s next drive, a 14-play, 70-yard march, ended with an O’Brien one-yard plunge for a yard.
After halftime, UR increased its lead to 27-16 with a defensive touchdown. Junior linebacker Jeff Leslie returned a Fisher lateral 24 yards. This sent the already-frenzied crowd into a fullblown craze.
The excitement continued into the second half when Fisher quickly went 80 yards, finishing with another Robinson touchdown run. After a failed two-point attempt, UR faithful still were not silenced. UR countered with their own 68-yard drive that ended with freshman Matt Bielecki’s five-yard run. The drive was highlighted by a 58-yard run by O’Brien, putting UR deep in Fisher territory. O’Brien was quick to praise his offensive line.
“They made a large hole in the defense and all I had to do was run straight down field,” O’Brien said.
Fisher struck again when Robinson caught a short pass and ran for a 61-yard score. Later, Bean hit again after pass breakups by Dermody and sophomore Jerell Jenkins forced Fisher to settle for three, while setting the stage for the grand finale.
Offensively, UR was paced by O’Brien’s 148 yards rushing on 24 carries. Bielicki added another 52 yards and Molisani threw for 83 yards by completing 13 of 25 attempts. Finicchio, making his first collegiate start, admitted to pre-game jitters but still led the Yellowjackets defensively with 13 tackles.
“I was real nervous before the game,” Finnichio said. “I have been waiting for this for three years and I think I made the most of my opportunity.”
Despite a 0-2 start, the team remains optimistic given that these two losses are against teams either in or near the nation’s top 25.
“There are positives we can take from these games,” Dermody, a team captain, said. “We know we can play at a high level considering we played two quality opponents. Now we have to focus on fixing our mistakes.”
Hopefully the Yellowjacket faithful has recovered to see if UR can fix these mistakes against Gettysburg College this Saturday at 1 p.m. at Fauver Stadium.
Allard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.