Engineers’ defense shuts down Gulls

This past Saturday pitted the RPI football team against the Endicott College Gulls in the opening match at the new East Campus Stadium of the East Campus Athletic Village. Not wanting the opposition to steal the Engineers’ thunder, Rensselaer countered the East Coast foes with a 28-0 shutout in front of a record crowd of 3,815—including Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson. The Engineers open the season with a strong 1-0 record, while the Gulls drop down to 1-1 on the year.

“I’ll be honest with you, I’ve been nervous,” said Head Coach Joe King of the first game at the East Campus Stadium. “You’re always nervous for the first game but you’re coming up here, and it’s a multi-million dollar facility. I mean, you want to put a decent product out on the field. You always feel pressure; you want to win your first game and so on, but more this year.”

The new stadium attempted to retain many of the familiarities of the old ’86 Field, such as keeping the team introductions on the same part of the field, the locations of the benches, and many other features.

Freshman quarterback Mike Hermann felt that pressure himself, as he was placed in a situation that most quarterbacks do not want to be faced with, especially in their first college series. Coming in to relieve fellow freshman quarterback Tanner Boucher at the start of second quarter, Hermann immediately found himself in trouble. After a failed running play by junior Nick Costa on the first down and an incomplete pass on the second, Hermann was facing a third and ten with the team backed up to RPI’s two-yard line. Hermann completed an 11-yard pass to junior wide receiver, Patrick McCarthy, for a first down. Hermann led the Engineers to the endzone on a 98-yard touchdown drive, which included a 15-yard completion to junior Ray Davis on a fourth down with eight yards to go—normally a risky play. Hermann completed the drive by throwing a four-yard score to McCarthy, also on a fourth down. “I was nervous; it was my first play of the game, my first play as a college athlete. We were on the two-yard line, which is the worst position possible, but we played and got it going,” said Hermann. “As soon as I released the ball, I thought it was out of bounds, but McCarthy was there to catch it.”

The Engineers offense continued to assault the Gulls’ defense; Hermann led the Engineers to three more scoring drives. Hermann ended the day with 10 completions on 20 attempts for 189 yards, two touchdown passes, two touchdown runs, and eight rushes for a total of 29 yards. Wide receiver McCarthy, Hermann’s go-to guy, caught 12 receptions for 195 yards and two scored touchdowns. “[McCarthy] made some great plays today. He’s an outstanding player, he was last year, and he’s going to be one of the good ones this year,” said King. Costa led the team on the ground with 16 rushes for 54 yards.

The Engineers defense set the tone from the first quarter, limiting the Gulls to a three and out, a fumble, and an interception on their first three series. The defense, led by senior linebackers Stefan Schulz, who had eight tackles in the game, and Tim Acker, who tallied six tackles, one sack, and one fumble recovery; senior safety Joe Albano with seven tackles; senior cornerbacks Bobby Stutz with four tackles and one interception; Justin Fogila, who collected three tackles and one interception; and redshirt freshman Corey White, who had two tackles and two sacks, dominated the Gulls.

The defense especially clamped down on the fourth down, shutting down all three of the Gulls’ attempts. The one score for the Engineers’ defense came late in the game, in the third quarter, when the Gulls drove to the RPI nine-yard line. The shutout was preserved on fourth down when a 27-yard field goal attempt was missed by the Gulls. The defense abused the Gulls, forcing three turnovers—including two interceptions and one fumble—and limiting them to 207 yards of total offense.

“We played a good game, but we need to clean up our act,” explained McCarthy. “We had a few penalties and a few fumbles. Things are going to get harder throughout the season and we need to get better.”

“I thought we could be pretty good on defense if we got some play out of the guys up front because we do have most of our linebackers and secondary back,” said King of the game, “but we do have a lot of young kids up front. We rotated eight or nine of them in there and I thought they did a good job and put some pressure against the quarterback.”

Also of note, senior placekicker Peter Nilson finished the day with a field goal block, and went four-for-four on point after touchdown attempts.

With the opening of the ECAV in the books and a win in their back pockets, the Engineers have a season that looks promising. Hermann and his offense are only going to get better as the year goes on.

“That’s a dream. Just being out there is a dream as a freshman college athlete,” said Hermann. “It was an awesome game; I couldn’t ask for anything else.”

The Engineers return to home turf this Saturday to face Utica College, with the opening kickoff at 1 pm.