On Saturday afternoon, the Yellowjacket football squad defeated the United States Merchant Marine Academy Mariners, 30-14, in Fauver Stadium, improving their overall record to 2-4. The win on Saturday was revitalizing for the ‘Jackets, who had a rough start in the opening weeks of the season. With over 2,800 people in attendance, the Meliora Weekend victory gave the Yellowjackets momentum heading into the final weeks of the season.

An essential component to UR’s dominating performance on Saturday was the impeccable play of the defense. After struggling to find its bearings in the first few weeks of the season, the ‘Jackets’ defense was bulletproof against the Mariners. In comparison to the average of 343 yards per game gained by UR’s opponents through week seven, the defense took a huge step forward this week, allowing just 200 yards of total offense. It also allowed only 143 yards passing and 57 yards on the ground a significant improvement over the past several weeks.

The difference in this week’s defensive performance was in the forced turnovers department. UR caused a total of four turnovers against the Mariners two fumbles and two interceptions.

‘We had trouble forcing turnovers the past few weeks, but this week we had a couple that bounced our way,” senior outside linebacker Jacob VanWhy said. ‘We were able to put the offense in a good position to put points on the board.”

The ‘Jackets were able to capitalize on the Mariners’ mistakes, with 14 of their 30 points coming off of turnovers.

A theme throughout the course of the game was the contribution of many underclassmen ‘Jackets to Saturday’s victory. Sophomore defensive back Chris Pesota showcased his ability to fill the role of a shutdown corner, finishing the day with a total of three tackles and multiple pass deflections. Pesota’s biggest play came early in the day and was vital to UR’s victory.

Employing the ‘scoop “n score” tactic, Pesota returned a Mariner fumble 85 yards for a touchdown, giving the Yellowjackets an early 7-0 lead and the momentum they needed to earn the win.

Another underclassman who contributed heavily on the defensive side of the ball was freshman inside linebacker Chris Bickford. The 5-foot-11-inch 241-pound freshman was at the core of the defensive front seven on Saturday afternoon, amassing a total of eight tackles and forcing a fumble.

On the offensive side of the ball, freshman quarterback Braezen Subick showed signs of improvement in his ability to be poised in the pocket. Subick finished the day 15-23 for 238 yards and a touchdown. He showed his ability to read the defense and find open targets, completing passes to six different receivers.

Junior wide receiver Mike Coolbaugh was Subick’s target of choice, finishing the game with four receptions for 103 yards and a touchdown. UR’s rushing attack was also a driving force in the victory over the Mariners. Led by sophomore center Zachary Feldman, the Yellowjacket offensive line was able to plow over Merchant Marine’s front seven, opening holes for sophomore running back Clarence Onyiriuka. Onyiriuka finished the day carrying the ball 39 times for 134 yards and two touchdowns.

The convincing victory over the Mariners is a turning point in the season for the ‘Jackets.

‘We knew going into this game we had to win to keep our hopes alive,” senior defensive lineman Samuel Chionuma said about the victory. ‘We made a statement in the Liberty League by winning in dominating fashion on our homecoming.”

Younger members of the team are showing their abilities to step up and fill the necessary roles essential to a successful football team. With four games left to be played in the regular season and the Liberty League up for grabs, watch out for exciting plays from the core group of young, talented players on the squad.

The Yellowjackets will be on the road to Worcester, Mass. this coming week, in a must-win Liberty League match-up against league rival Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

WPI is currently in second place in the Liberty League, with an overall record of 5-1. If the ‘Jackets can successfully knock off WPI, it would put them in a great position to compete for the Liberty League title.

‘Going into the game this week, we need to practice like we’re going to play,” senior fullback and captain Patrick Till said. ‘As long as we take care of business during the week, we go into the game with that mindset that we’re going to get things done, and that all starts with how we practice.”

The ‘Jackets return to Fauver Stadium on Nov. 1 to face Alfred University.

Horowitz is a member of the class of 2009.

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