The Engineers suffered their second straight loss to a Liberty League foe by losing to the Susquehanna University Crusaders in Selinsgrove, Penn., on Saturday by a score of 35-30. After the offense sputtered last game against the University of Rochester, they were impressive against the top-ranked Crusader defense.
The front line, sparked by the return of freshman quarterback Mike Hermann from injury, set the tone early with a touchdown on its opening series and staked the Engineers with an early 7-0 lead. However, the Crusader offense scored three straight touchdowns, and Rensselaer found itself in a 21-7 hole and down 28-17 going into the half.
After halftime, the Engineers pulled within four after senior running back Nick Costa broke a 49-yard touchdown run. However, the Crusaders answered back with a touchdown on their own to make the score 35-24. The Engineers were able to get one more touchdown on the board, but their comeback attempt fell short as the special teams unit was not able to recover the ensuing onside kick. Hermann continued his versatile game with 237 yards passing and three touchdowns to go along with 42 yards rushing. Costa aided the Engineer ground attack with 116 yards rushing and a touchdown. The RPI receivers had a strong game: junior Pat McCarthy had four receptions for 75 yards, a touchdown, and two receptions, while senior Mike Fil had 55 yards of offense and a touchdown.
After carrying the Engineers all season, RPI’s defense faltered against the Crusader’s offense. Susquehanna running backs Dave Paveletz and Greg Tellish had a field day running all over the RPI defense for 188 yards and 51 yards, respectively. Paveletz also chipped in with three touchdowns and had an impressive 5.2 yards per carry on 36 attempts. Crusader quarterback Rich Palazzi threw for 225 yards and two touchdowns to complement the running game of Susquehanna. The Engineers’ defense was led by senior safeties Joe Albano (14 tackles) and Tim Acker (11 tackles), as well as freshman defensive lineman Matthew Lauro (five tackles and one sack).
The Engineers’ offense kept the game close; however, the early deficit was too large to overcome. With a conference record of 1-2, it is going to be a tough hill to climb in the quest for the Liberty League crown. With an improving offense and a veteran defense, Rensselaer has an opportunity to make some noise and play spoiler for future divisional games. With a few losses by rivals, they can get right back into the hunt for the crown. RPI looks to rebound from back to back tough losses this Saturday against St. Lawrence University at the East Campus Stadium.