Defense prevails in Engineers victory

In the second game of the season, the Engineers found themselves in a grueling matchup on Saturday against the Utica College Pioneers at the East Campus Stadium of the East Campus Athletic Village. After falling behind early by a score of 14-3, the Engineers came back to defeat the Pioneers, thanks in large part to the Engineers’ defense and special team units.

“We knew they were a good team coming in here, so we weren’t taking them lightly at all,” explained senior safety Joe Albano. “We had a close game last year, and Utica had a lot of guys come back so we knew they were going to give us a run for our money.”

After Utica scored on a 68-yard-pass play in the first quarter, the RPI defense settled down and shut down the Pioneers for the rest of the game. They forced the Pioneers to turn the ball over four times and sacked their quarterback two times. The two biggest plays of the game belonged to Albano. In the fourth quarter, with the Engineers up to 17-14, the Pioneers were in the Engineers’ 11-yard line when the drive stalled and they decided to attempt a 28-yard field goal to tie the game. Albano blocked Pioneer kicker Casey McNulty’s attempt and helped preserve the lead for the Engineers.

In the next series for the Pioneers, with less than a minute left, Utica attempted another game-tying 30-yard field goal. Albano blocked the kick again, but McNulty recovered it and attempted to complete a pass; however, he was picked off by sophomore Nick Herrera, who iced the game for the Engineers. The defense, led by Albano (five tackles, two blocked kicks, one fumble recovery), senior linebackers Colin King (12 tackles, one sack), Tim Acker (nine tackles), and Stefan Schulz (six tackles), and junior defensive end Darryl Brown (two tackles, one sack, one fumble forced), clamped down on the Pioneers and led the Engineers to victory.

“The chances of that happening are pretty slim,” said Albano of the two blocks. “But we’ve done that in the past. All I was thinking was ‘I hope they get a good push,’ because I know when I get up there I have a good shot. It was all them, I just had to get there. All we ask for are two or three yards that allow us to jump up there and block it. That’s all it really was. No magic there, just got a good push and jumped up.”

After a 28-point explosion against Endicott College last weekend, there were high expectations for freshman quarterback Mike Hermann and his Engineers. However, the offense struggled to put points on the board. They were able to gain yards against the Pioneers, but costly mistakes such as turnovers and drive-killing penalties limited their scoring opportunities. They quickly found themselves down by 11 going into halftime. However, the offense came alive in the third quarter after the defense recovered a Pioneer fumble at the Utica 24-yard line. Hermann and his Engineers made quick work of the short field as Hermann found his favorite target, junior wide receiver Patrick McCarthy, in the back of the endzone for a touchdown, cutting the Pioneers’ lead to four. Hermann capped off another drive in the fourth quarter by running for a 33-yard touchdown with 10:33 left in the game. That touchdown by Hermann put the Engineers up for good, and the offense turned it over to the defense to close out the game. “I had a few mistakes in the game,” said Hermann. “[The touchdown run] was another misread. I just got a little too happy in the pocket there. I saw an opening and went with it.”

Hermann led the Engineers passing attack and rushing attack by passing for 167 yards and a touchdown, as well as rushing for 88 yards and a touchdown. McCarthy finished the day with six receptions for 84 yards and a touchdown, while junior wide receiver Ray Davis finished the day with five catches for 40 yards. Junior tailback Nick Costa chipped in by rushing the ball for 29 times for 77 yards.

“We’re definitely real fortunate our defense stepped up,” said Hermann. “The special team gave us room today. They played their heart out—twice—to block field goals.”

In a game where the Engineers’ offense started slow, the defense stepped it up and picked up key stops along the way. “We need to set [the offense] up for success,” said Albano of what needs to be worked on for the upcoming game. “They can drive 80 yards and get to the 10-yard line, you’re pretty gased. You’d like to push it in, but sometimes you can’t. We’d like to give them a shorter field to work with, and like I said, they had a short field to work with, and pinned them against a wall. You pin a dog against a wall and he’s going to come out biting.”

The Engineers will try to maintain their undefeated record next Saturday against the Worcester Polytechnic Institute Engineers, where RPI will make an attempt at defending its Transit Trophy title.