Entering last weekend’s Courage Bowl II match up with cross town rival St. John Fisher, the UR football team had high hopes of avoiding its fifth straight loss to the Cardinals. The previous week, the Yellowjackets opened the 2006-2007 season with a solid win over John’s Hopkins University in Baltimore, 20-10, but took the loss against Fisher in its second game of the season, 30-10.
In Baltimore, senior quarterback Aaron Molisani threw two touchdown passes, one to junior wideout Jay Jay Vanderstyne and the other to senior running back Pat O’Brien. Junior running back Matt Bielecki was also a major part of the Yellowjacket offense, gaining 160 all-purpose yards on 30 carries and five receptions.
On the defensive side of the ball, sophmore defesive back Matt Stack had a game clinching 80 yard interception return for a touchdown and junior defensive back Jim Milks led the team with 8.5 tackles. The UR defense absolutely dominated Hopkins, forcing five turnovers and three sacks.
The win was the first time in five years that UR opened its season with a victory. It also marked the first time the Jackets topped Hopkins in their last five meetings.
Unfortunately, any momentum the team had going into the Courage Bowl was halted as they were outplayed, mostly in the second half, by Fisher (2-0) and defeated 30-10 in front of more than 4,000 fans at Edwin Fauver Stadium. The loss dropped Rochester’s record to one win and one loss.
The Fisher defense played exceptionally well, forcing four interceptions and holding the Yellowjacket offense to just 10 points. They also kept the “thunder and lightning” duo of Bielecki and O’Brien in check, limiting them to only 67 and 56 yards on the ground respectively.
Molisani struggled early in the game with 3 first half interceptions and was replaced by Freshman QB Kapps Killingstad. Killingstad started off his college career with a perfect 43 yard TD strike to a wide open Vanderstyne late in the second half to give UR a 7-6 halftime lead and momentum going into the second half. It was Vanderstyne’s second touchdown this year.
“Since we graduated our top four receivers from last year, there were a lot of questions surrounding that position… I worked out hard this summer in order to come in to camp in good shape,” said Vanderstyne.
The hard work has paid off as the third year wide receiver has emerged into a big time playmaker for the Yellowjackets in the early going this season.
The UR defense played with a lot of heart and tenacity in the first half, coming up with key stops on multiple Fisher drives. Despite the turnovers and extra
possessions Fisher was given, the defense still managed to hold them to only six points and kept them out of the endzone going into halftime.
As the rain continued to fall, the Fisher offensive attack began to pour on the Yellowjackets in the second half. The Cardinals, ranked No. 23 in the nation last year, outscored UR by 21 points and continued to milk the clock with an effective rushing attack totaling 203 yards.
A key fumble recovery by junior defensive back Jim Milks on a Fisher punt return and an impressive interception by senior defensive lineman Pat Gallagher kept hope alive, but it wasn’t enough to stop the Cardinals from taking home its second Courage Bowl victory in a row. Milks finished with seven tackles for the ‘Jackets.
UR will look to get back in the win column this Saturday against Gettysburg. The game is at Fauver Stadium and starts at noon.
Brackney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.