After a disappointing three-game skid to start their season, the UR football team broke out in a big way on Saturday at St. Lawrence University. Senior running back Matt Bielecki racked up 186 yards on the ground and three total touchdowns to lead the ‘Jackets to a 31-24 win. In doing so, Bielecki broke two UR rushing records that had stood since 1993.
Bielecki’s statistics on the day gave him career numbers topped by no one in the history of UR football. His 3,508 career rushing yards and 738 rushing attempts put him ahead of Jeremy Hurd, ’93 in both categories.
“I view [the records] not only as an individual accomplishment but as an accomplishment for the entire team,” Bielecki said. “It takes more then just one person to break rushing records. It’s nice to have something to show for all the work and progress that the Rochester football team has made since I’ve been a part of the team.”
“Matt is a leader and role model for the team, both on and off the field,” junior defensive back Matt Stack said. “His work ethic is second to none and he is a great teammate. He deserves every record he now holds and I could not think of a better player to hold them.”
The first quarter started about as well as possible for the Yellowjackets. Senior defensive back Andy Rape returned the opening kickoff 67 yards to the Saints’ 23-yard line. Four plays later, sophomore quarterback Adam Barrett tossed an eight-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Jay Jay Vanderstyne to give UR the early lead.
St. Lawrence responded quickly, however, marching 66 yards on the ensuing possession to tie the score at 7. After a three-and-out possession by each team, the Yellowjackets took possession in Saints territory and marched 44 yards to take the lead. The drive was capped off by Bielecki, who ripped a 21-yard touchdown run for his first score of the day. That score was again answered on the following SLU possession, as they put together a drive that made it down to the UR two-yard line. The ‘Jackets defense stiffened, however, and allowed only a field goal that made the score at the end of the quarter 14-10.
The Saints took their first lead of the game midway though the second quarter. SLU running back Connor Hackett scored from two yards out to give the Saints a 17-14 lead. But this time it was the Yellowjackets who answered fast, as they turned their next drive into three points on a career-long 37-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Griffin Moar. The teams went into halftime deadlocked at 17.
Coming out of the locker room, both teams struggled in the third quarter. The Saints couldn’t muster any significant offense, as quarterback Brad Heil threw interceptions on all four of the Saints’ third quarter possessions.
“The four interceptions provided the defense with much confidence,” Stack said. “The game really slowed down for us as a result, which is when players play their best.”
UR could only convert one of those turnovers into points, however. After the third pick of the quarter, the ‘Jackets took over on the SLU 44. Staring at a third down on the 24-yard line, Bielecki broke another touchdown run of over 20 yards, giving the lead back to UR, 24-17.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Yellowjackets solidified their lead with an impressive 91-yard drive, their longest of the year. Ten consecutive running plays, including a 50-yard scamper by Bielecki, put UR on the 4-yard line. It was then that Barrett went to the air, finding Bielecki on a screen pass for the score and giving the ‘Jackets a 14-point lead. The deficit proved to be too much for the Saints, who added a late touchdown but nothing more.
“Getting the first win is huge,” Bielecki said. “It builds confidence throughout the team and that’s important for a young team like ours. Walking on the field with confidence and expecting to perform at a high level is key in football as well as any sport.”
Barrett was effective managing the game, finishing 12 of 18 for 74 yards and a touchdown through the air and adding 29 yards on the ground. More impressive were the zeros he posted – zero interceptions and zero sacks.
The unsung hero for the ‘Jackets was Rape, who tallied five tackles and two of UR’s four interceptions. He also came through in a big way on special teams, returning three kickoffs for 129 yards, an average of 43 yards per return. These impressive returns led to excellent starting field position for the offense on a number of drives.
The Yellowjackets tallied 232 rushing yards as a team – more than twice the total of the Saints. That, along with the 31 points scored, are the highest such numbers UR has put up this year. Saturday also marked the first game of the season in which the ‘Jackets did not turn the ball over.
Bielecki said that while Head Coach Scott Greene didn’t change the gameplan, he did change things during the week.
“The week of practice leading up to the game was more intense then usual,” Bielecki said. “[Coach Greene] wanted to ensure that we were going to play like we practiced, so we practiced hard. It definitely paid off for game.”
The 186 rushing yards on the day, as well as the 6.2 yards per carry, were season bests for Bielecki, who started the season on the sidelines with a foot injury. He more than doubled his season yardage total, which now stands at 368 yards through three games. He is on pace to finish the year with 1,104 yards, which would make him the first player in UR history to crack 4,000 for his career.
The team heads southeast to Long Island to take on the Merchant Marine Academy on Saturday at 1 p.m.
Moeller is a member of the class of 2009.