There was a highly amplified atmosphere in a game where 13 seniors played their last football game at Fauver Stadium and, ironically, a freshman had a breakout performance.
Freshman safety Jim Milks recorded 10 tackles, a forced fumble and a pass break-up, leading the UR defensive effort against the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Unfortunately, the Yellowjackets could not keep up their opening emotional intensity and succumbed to RPI, 28-14. Milks was quick in attributing his performance to something other than his own individual ability.
“Everything I’ve been able to accomplish, I attribute to the coaching staff and my teammates, who push me to be better every day,” Milks said.
Senior night added another dimension to the already intense atmosphere for Milks.
“There was definitely added pressure,” Milks said. “Because the seniors mean so much to the underclassmen as leaders and role models, there was lots of talk this week to get the seniors a win in their last game at Fauver.”
Early on, UR used that added pressure to their advantage offensively when junior quarterback Aaron Molisani capped an 11-play, 79-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown plunge.
Two possessions later, it took the Yellowjackets only 36 seconds to score when Molisani hit streaking senior Kevin Toolan for a 36-yard touchdown pass. For the senior wideout, it was the first touchdown catch of his career, and was the beginning of a six-catch, 95-yard day.
These would be the only points the Yellowjackets would muster, as RPI scored 28 unanswered points to secure the victory. UR had its chances in the second half with a third-quarter drive ending when the gusting wind pushed freshman Rob Corey’s field goal attempt wide. Twice late in the fourth quarter, pass deflections led to UR turnovers on downs.
Offensively, UR was led once again by Molisani, whose 26 completions gave him the single-season record for completions. All told, Molisani rang up 267 yards passing and 85 yards on the ground on 15 carries. Freshman running back Matt Bielecki also chipped in 75 yards on 25 carries and a career-high six catches for 43 yards.
Defensively, Milks and junior linebacker Ray Finocchio led the Yellowjackets. Finocchio had 10 tackles, including a tackle for a loss and a pass breakup. Junior linebacker Matt Simon continued his superb play with nine tackles, two pass breakups and a sack.
The final home game of the season put a lot into perspective for Milks.
“It felt terrible,” Milks said. “We lost the game even though everyone gave 100 percent. It made me realize I have to make the most of the opportunities to step on the field as a member of this team.”
There was a similar feeling for the 13 graduating seniors four years ago, all of whom represent the finest attributes of the student-athlete and are sure to be missed as teammates, friends and students here at Rochester.
They have one last chance to go out on top, as UR travels to Hobart this weekend looking to even its record and give the Statesmen their first league loss of the season. The kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. on Saturday.
Allard can be reached at email@example.com.