The Yellowjackets kept playoff hopes alive this past weekend as they beat Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 30-23, in their last home game of the season. The win brought the ‘Jackets’ record to 7-2 (4-1), good for a share of second place in the Liberty League.

Senior quarterback Aaron Molisani completed 22 of 29 passes for 195 yards through the air along with three touchdowns, two of which he ran in himself. Molisani killed the RPI defense with his ability to scramble, running 18 times for 67 yards.

The rushing attack once again was devastating, as junior running back Matt Bielecki ran the ball 32 times, gaining 129 yards, along with a touchdown of his own. Junior wide receiver Jay Jay Vanderstyne led the receiving corps with 13 catches for 115 yards, bringing his season total to 945 yards on the year.

Vanderstyne’s yardage output for the season is the most ever by a Rochester player in the football program’s 118 year history. He also has more receptions (67) than any other player for a single season.

“It feels good accomplishing something like that, but it feels even better knowing how good this team has played this year,” Vanderstyne said.

Bielecki will have a chance next week to break the individual season rushing record. He currently has 1,130 yards rushing on the year and needs 81 yards next week to break the record.

The Yellowjackets led the entire game, although RPI kept it close in the second half. The first quarter featured scoreless football as both teams played exceptional defense. It wasn’t until the second quarter that the ‘Jackets offense started rolling.

The first play of the second quarter began with the Yellowjacket offense in a third and five situation. Molisani hiked the ball and scrambled out of the pocket to find Vanderstyne for a huge 21-yard gain for the first down. Bielecki then ran the ball three consecutive times, putting the offense on the RPI five-yard line. Molisani finished the drive off with a five-yard run up the middle for the first score of the game.

With the ‘Jackets up 7-0, the defense stepped up big on the Engineers’ next possession, forcing them to punt after three plays. Freshman Zach Ingoldsby came up with yet another huge special teams play when he broke free from the line of scrimmage and blocked RPI’s punt. Ingoldsby has consistently come up with big plays on special teams the last few weeks.

The blocked punt gave UR a short field to work with as they started their drive on the RPI 28-yard line. The ‘Jackets found themselves in another third down situation after a series of rushes by Bielecki.

Molisani took the snap and dropped back looking first for Vanderstyne to get open and then steadily going through his reads. The offensive line, which has been solid all season, gave him all day to throw the ball as the RPI defense couldn’t get any pressure on Molisani. The senior quarterback then rolled out of the pocket to the right and fired a bullet to freshman tight end Pedro Sosa for a 13 yard touchdown pass.

On the extra point attempt, the RPI defense blocked the kick, which was then recovered in the air by junior lineman Jeff Cosgrove. Cosgrove dove into the end zone and, since it was still a live ball, the ‘Jackets ended up turning the blocked kick into a two point conversion, making the score 15-0.

At the end of the first half, everything was going right for the Yellowjackets. The third quarter was a different story, as RPI used a hurry-up offense to score 10 consecutive points and cut into UR’s lead.

RPI marched down the field on their first drive and looked as though they would get in the end zone, but the drive was halted thanks to cornerback Sean Simpson. On first down and only five yards away from the end zone, the sophomore came up with a big play when he sacked RPI quarterback Jimmy Robertson on a blitz, setting them back 12 yards. Senior linebacker Jason Goeller forced a hurried pass on third down and RPI settled for a field goal, cutting the ‘Jackets lead to 15-3.

After a Rochester punt on the ensuing possession, RPI marched down the field again and scored on a long completion to cut the lead to 15-10.

The Yellowjacket offense finally responded late in the third quarter as they attacked mainly through the air. Molisani completed long passes to Vanderstyne and Ingoldsby for 22 and 20 yards, respectively, putting them inside the five-yard line. On the next play, Molisani ran the ball in for the touchdown, his second rushing score of the day. The ‘Jackets now had a comfortable 22-10 lead.

RPI scored another touchdown, making the score 22-17. After UR was forced to punt on the next possession, it was up to the defense to hold the lead, and they did just that. On second down at their own 25-yard line, RPI attempted a pass that was completed to an open receiver. Senior linebacker Peter Kum-Nji stripped the receiver as he tackled him and the ball came loose. Simpson pounced on it and UR recovered the ball on the RPI 44-yard line, giving the offense yet another opportunity to score with a short field.

All UR needed was three plays, all of which were runs, to score another touchdown. Molisani had a huge gain when he scrambled to the left and made a nice cut back to the right and broke free for a 30-yard run. That set up Bielecki for a 16-yard scamper into the end zone. A successful two point conversion attempt (this time it was on purpose) brought the score to 30-17.

RPI fought back and scored again, making it 30-23, but had a deep pass intercepted late in the game by junior defensive back Andy Rape, which all but ended their chances of winning the game.

The Yellowjackets will travel to Hobart College next Saturday for their final game of the season. Hobart (7-1, 4-1) is tied with UR for second place in the Liberty League, and a ‘Jackets win will significantly improve their chances of getting an at-large bid into the NCAA playoffs. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.

If the Yellowjackets don’t make the playoffs this year, it will not take away from all that they have accomplished. After several mediocre seasons the team has a bright future, but for some players a winning season just isn’t enough.

“We’re going to end the season with a six-game winning streak, I’m going to break the single season rushing record and we’re going to make the playoffs,” Bielecki said.

Brackney is a member of the class of 2007.

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