The Yellowjackets sought to play spoiler on Saturday, when they hosted the Hobart College Statesmen. Toting a Liberty League-leading 4-1 record in the conference (6-1 overall), the Statesmen looked to seal the deal on an automatic invite to the NCAA Division III playoffs by taking home the conference championship title, which would be the team’s first title in three years and seventh all-time.
Yet what ensued at Fauver Stadium didn’t appear to be the play of a national title-seeking squad or even that of a team on par with UR (4-5, 3-3 in the Liberty League), which, despite its losing record, entered the final game of the regular season having won three of their last four games, outscoring opponents 106-74.
The teams combined for six fumbles — two committed by Hobart, four by UR — resulting in a relatively low-scoring game for both the normally offensively proficient Statesmen and the surging ’Jackets. Both squads also struggled on third down conversions — Hobart managed them just twice on 16 attempts, while the home team didn’t fare much better, getting two first downs on 15 tries.
The Statesmens’ Steven Webb fumbled the ball 5:19 into the first half. It was scooped up by Yellowjackets’ sophomore outside linebacker Tony Ortega, sparking a 10-yard play that culminated in graduate student running back Clarence Onyiriuka’s three-yard touchdown run.
Hobart quarterback Nick Strang engineered a response later in the quarter. He hit his target, Junior Woodard, on second-and-23 from his team’s 47-yard line, then handed the ball off to Webb later on fourth-and-two to keep the drive alive. After stringing together a series of short passes to get the ball to the UR one-yard line, Strang once again looked to Webb, who broke through to the end zone and tied the score with 13:21 remaining in the half.
After Hobart punter and receiver Elvin Soufrant and UR junior kicker Mike Carson traded punts on fourth downs, the ball ended up in the Statesmens’ possession on the UR 35-yard line. Strang promptly hit Souffrant to put the Statesmen up, 14-7 with 7:24 remaining in the quarter.
Onyiriuka rushed for 35 yards on the next drive, and the offensive effort was complimented by two penalties on the Hobart defense, resulting in a chance at a late-first half field goal. UR junior kicker Alex Antonucci hit the 37-yard attempt, bringing UR within three points as time expired.
In the third quarter, the offensive weaknesses of both teams were revealed. Onyiriuka was stripped of the ball on the third play of the half and Hobart recovered. Just six plays later, however, possession returned to UR as Strang was intercepted by sophomore cornerback Jordan Honjiyo at the home team’s two-yard line. The Yellowjackets couldn’t get anywhere, however, fumbling the ball in their own end zone and allowing the Statesmen to recover for a safety, giving the visitors a 16-10 lead with 10:22 remaining. After Hobart’s Kevin Hearon intercepted the ball late in the half and returned it 36 yards for a touchdown, it was all but over, as the Statesmen marched away with a 24-10 victory.
Sophomore Zack Cicero led the Yellowjackets’ defense with eight solo tackles and was helped further by senior defensive tackle Bill Campi (seven solo tackles) and junior full safety Kobie Hamm (six solo tackles).
Bernstein is a member of the class of 2014.