Senior quarterback Aaron Molisani and junior running back Matt Bielecki combined to score three touchdowns, all on the ground, to lead the Yellowjackets past St. Lawrence University, 19-18. Molisani scored the game winning touchdown with less than a minute left to put the ‘Jackets on top. The win brought their record to 3-2 (1-1).
Similar to last week’s game against Union College, Molisani replaced freshman starter Kapps Killingstad at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Unlike last week’s match, however, Molisani was able to lead the team to victory capping off a 13-play, 73-yard drive with a four yard scamper into the end zone.
The Yellowjackets relied heavily on the team’s ground game, rushing the ball 36 times for 169 yards. Bielecki accounted for 104 of those yards and two touchdowns. He is now second in the Liberty League in rushing yards and has been the team’s workhorse all year.
The defense was led by senior defensive lineman Pat Gallagher and fellow senior linebacker Jason Goeller. Gallagher led the team with 11 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble while Goeller racked up another sack of his own to bring his total to six on the year.
The ‘Jackets headed into the third quarter looking to build on their 7-6 lead, but hit a snag when sophomore return man Mike Sondericker fumbled a punt and St. Lawrence recovered the football at the Rochester 40-yard line.
All the Saints needed was one play and a bit of trickery to put them in the lead. The team caught the Yellowjackets off guard with a wide receiver screen pass that found a Saints receiver wide open down field for a touchdown. That single play put the Saints up 12-7. After missing an extra point earlier in the first half, St. Lawrence decided to try and go for a two point conversion, which failed as well. Both those mistakes would prove to be decisive at the end of the game.
On the Yellowjackets’ next possession, they responded with a 7-play, 57-yard drive of their own taking back the lead, 13-7. The drive could have been accurately termed, “Give the ball to Bielecki,” as the ‘Jackets literally did just that, handing him the ball all seven plays. Bielecki finished off the Saints’ defense with an athletic leap into the endzone over the pile at the line of scrimmage for the score. St. Lawrence would score yet again at the end of the third quarter, putting them up 18-13. After the touchdown, the Saints recovered an onside kick, putting the UR defense back on the field on consecutive possessions.
With momentum seemingly swinging away from the ‘Jackets and toward the Saints, a tired defense found inspiration in the intensity from senior leader Gallagher. After getting the team pumped up in the huddle, the defense forced a three and out possession, with Gallagher coming up with two of the stops himself.
On second down, Molisani looked to freshman wide receiver Zach Ingoldsby for a 10-yard gain, but the receiver dropped a very catchable pass. On a crucial third down play, the ‘Jackets needed a first down if they had any hopes of winning the game. Molisani fired a bullet across the middle to Ingoldsby again. The pass was high, but the freshman reached up and pulled the ball in, getting the first down and redeeming himself.
The ‘Jackets continued to pick up chunks of yardage as the clock ticked away with Bielecki running for long gains of nine and 15 yards, respectively. Mistakes, however, made the going a bit more difficult for the offense as they were called for two consecutive penalties, putting them in a first and long situation.
At the Saints’ 45-yard line and needing 20 yards for a first down, Molisani went for it all with a bomb down the left side of the field to Vanderstyne. The ball was perfectly thrown, but Vanderstyne was well-defended and the pass fell incomplete. Molisani then completed a pass to freshman tight end Pedro Sosa for a gain of 11 yards and then ran himself for a five yard gain. That put the ‘Jackets in a fourth down situation with four yards separating them from a first down.
In clutch situations such as these, any team will tell you that they want the ball in the hands of their best receiver. In this case, it was Vanderstyne, who leads all receivers in the Liberty League in receptions and yards per game.
After a timeout to talk over the play, the ‘Jackets walked to the line of scrimmage facing a defense determined to stop them short of the first down.
Molisani hiked the ball and rolled to the right, never looking away from Vanderstyne, who made the reception on a low thrown ball. The five-yard gain was good enough for the first down.
The ‘Jackets got the ball all the way to the four-yard line with 41 seconds left in the game. Molisani again rolled right, looking for receivers, none of whom were open. With defenders closing in on him, the quarterback scrambled his way into the endzone untouched and gave UR the go-ahead lead, 19-18.
That would turn out to be the game winner, as St. Lawrence ran out of time to try and get in field goal range, let alone score a touchdown.
The Yellowjackets will play at home this Saturday looking to win two in a row against Kings Point College. Kickoff is at 1 p.m.
See photos from the game here http://www.campustimes.org/fb0930
Brackney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.