The Yellowjackets traveled to Schenectady, N.Y. for their Liberty League opener against No. 23 ranked Union College this past Saturday. The team was hoping to win two games in a row for the first time this season but unfortunately left Frank Bailey Field on the short end of a 27-24 game, dropping their record to 2-2 (0-1).
Junior wide receiver Jay Jay Vanderstyne set a career high in receiving yards for the second straight week by catching seven passes for 113 yards and a touchdown. Senior quarterback Aaron Molisani also turned in a solid performance, passing for 148 yards and two scores after checking in for freshman Kapps Killingstad in the fourth quarter.
The Yellowjackets were never able to get a lead during the course of the game, playing from behind for the majority of it. Union used the opening drive of the game to march 70 yards and score a touchdown, putting them up 7-0.
Already in a hole, Rochester tried to get a touchdown of their own with their first possession, but a sack on Killingstad forced a fumble that was recovered by Union. The Dutchmen couldn’t take advantage of the turnover and two costly penalties forced them to punt the ball.
The score stayed at 7-0 for the remainder of the first quarter and it wasn’t until a Killingstad to Vanderstyne 41-yard pass play that Rochester got a chance to even up the score. The play put the ball on the one yard line and junior running back Matt Bielecki capped off the drive with a run into the endzone, evening the score at seven apiece.
The UR defense played well for the rest of the first half, forcing a punt and a key goal-line stop inside the 10-yard line that limited Union to a field goal, making the score 10-7. The offense didn’t help matters, however, as Killingstad was picked off by a Union defender on Rochester’s side of the 50-yard line, giving Union a short field and a great chance to extend their lead.
The defense stepped up when junior defensive back Jim Milks came up with a key interception inside the twenty yard line. The half ended with the Yellowjackets still trailing, 10-7.
The second half opened with the ‘Jackets driving downfield, largely thanks to a couple good runs by Bielecki and four completions by Killingstad. They had to settle for a field goal to end the drive and even the score. The rest of the third quarter didn’t go as well for Rochester, as Union used their next two possessions to score consecutive touchdowns and give them a comfortable 24-10 lead.
That lead could have been extended even further had the defense not stepped up yet again. After giving up significant yardage to Union, the defense found themselves backed up on their own seven yard line. Junior linebacker
Joe Galantini came up with a huge interception on the one-yard line to stop the drive abruptly. It was Union quarterback Anthony Marotti’s second interception inside the red zone during the game.
A couple three-and-out possessions by UR forced head coach Scott Greene to make a change at quarterback in the hopes of getting the offense moving downfield and in came Molisani.
Starting on the three-yard line following the Galantini interception, Molisani led a 97-yard drive for a score. Freshman receiver Mike Coolbaugh found himself on the receiving end of a 40-yard pass by Molisani for the touchdown. A failed extra point attempt brought the score to 24-16 and the Yellowjackets back in the game.
Union responded with a field goal of their own to make it 27-16. Molisani needed only two plays on the next drive to get UR back on the scoreboard. After a successful two point conversion, the ‘Jackets clawed their way back and trailed by just three points, 27-24 with roughly two minutes left in the game. Then things got interesting.
With only 2:33 left on the game clock, Rochester attempted an onside kick in hopes of stealing back a possession. The kick was touched by a Union player and recovered by the ‘Jackets, giving them a great shot at winning the ball game despite never holding a lead. However, the play was waived off by the referees on a questionable offsides call on the UR kickoff team. This forced a second onside kick attempt but this time, Union recovered the football.
The defense managed to stop Union from running out the clock and forced a punt, giving the offense one last chance to win the ballgame with just 33 seconds left. Unfortunately, a desperate hail mary attempt by Molisani fell incomplete.
Penalties took their toll on Rochester as the team racked up 13 penalties totaling 99 yards. Despite the penalties, the ‘Jackets never gave up, fighting their way back and giving themselves a chance to win at the end of the game.
The Yellowjackets come back home this coming Saturday when they take on St. Lawrence. Kickoff is set for noon.
Brackney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.