The ‘Jackets got two touchdowns apiece from junior running back Matt Bielecki and fellow junior receiver Jay Jay Vanderstyne, leading the team to a 28-24 victory over the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy on Saturday. Senior quarterback Aaron Molisani took part in three of those touchdowns, finding Vanderstyne both times and Bielecki once through the air. The win was the second in a row for the team, as they improved their record to four wins and two losses and, more importantly, 2-1 in Liberty League play.

It was Molisani’s best performance of the year as he finished the game with 232 yards in the air and another 41 yards on the ground. Vanderstyne dominated the game, finishing with 10 catches for 165 yards and Bielecki was steady as usual, running for 130 yards on 27 carries.

It was a clear and sunny day for football and the Yellowjackets did not disappoint the many fans and alumni in attendance. The game started off a bit slow with a scoreless first quarter as a result of both teams playing exceptional defense.

The second quarter saw the game’s first score as Bielecki hauled in a four-yard screen pass from Molisani, giving the ‘Jackets a 7-0 lead. USMMA responded with a touchdown of their own on the following possession to tie the game.

The ‘Jackets got the ball back with about two minutes left in the first half with hopes of reclaiming the lead and momentum going into halftime. Molisani used both his legs and arm to lead the drive. After two runs of nine yards, Molisani found sophomore receiver Mike Sondericker for a first down. By this time there were only 22 seconds left on the clock and the Yellowjackets were still roughly 30 yards away from freshman kicker Griffin Moar’s field goal range.

Molisani hiked the ball, dropped back and heaved a bomb down the right side of the field to Vanderstyne, who was being covered one-on-one by a lone defensive back. The pass was slightly underthrown and Vanderstyne positioned himself to come back to the ball. The Merchant Marine defensive back never saw the ball until it was caught and the junior wide receiver went into the endzone untouched. The play was good for 47 yards and put the ‘Jackets back on top, 14-7, to close out the first half.

The third quarter was similar to the first quarter as UR struggled to get points on the board. However, the defense was solid and gave the offense an extra possession when senior defensive back Adam Wojdyla came up with an interception after it was tipped by a lineman.

The offense could not capitalize, however, as Moar missed a field goal attempt from 40 yards out. USMMA ended up tying the score yet again at 14 with roughly two minutes left in the quarter.

The offense sputtered again on the next possession, going three and out and punting the ball back to the Mariners. It looked like the momentum was shifting away from the ‘Jackets, but the defense came up with a huge play thanks to senior linebacker Jason Goeller.

Goeller broke free on a blitz and attacked the quarterback, forcing a fumble that was recovered by senior lineman Ryan Barnard. This time, the offense was able to convert the turnover into points as Bielecki ran into the endzone from five yards out, making the score 21-14.

The Mariners would score the next 10 points giving them a 24-21 lead with 5:20 left in the ball game. The Mariners picked apart the secondary on both scoring drives, getting long gains across the middle through the air. Time was slipping away from the ‘Jackets and that’s when they turned to the leaders on the team.

Two weeks ago, Molisani was able to lead UR to the win after trailing late in the fourth quarter. This week he did the same, getting help from Bielecki and Vanderstyne along the way. Bielecki had a long run of 35 yards and nearly broke a tackle for the score. Molisani was then able to find Vanderstyne from 18 yards out for the duo’s second touchdown hookup of the day, putting the Yellowjackets on top, 28-24.

“[Molisani] did a great job leading us down the field,” Vanderstyne said. “He really showed his senior leadership on that last drive.”

With two minutes left, it was now up to the defense to close out the game since USMMA would have one last chance to win and they did just that.

Goeller and senior lineman Pat Gallagher made sure that UR would end the game on top, putting consistent pressure on the Mariners offense. Gallagher had a key sack – his second of the day – and Goeller rushed the quarterback forcing an intentional grounding penalty. Eventually, time ran out for the Marines and the game was over.

Overall, the Yellowjackets put together a consistent game on both sides of the ball and it resulted in a win.

“It was a great game,” Beilecki said. “I think it was a total team effort. The offense scored when they had to and the defense did a great job on their last drive to stop them.”

The ‘Jackets will look for three wins in a row this Saturday as they travel to Worcester, Mass. to take on Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Kickoff is set for noon.

Brackney can be reached at tbrackney@campustimes.org.



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