The 2009 football season didn’t quite pan out as the Engineers would have liked after such a strong campaign the year before. Starting a season with a pair of freshman quarterbacks, the Engineers faced uncertainty on who would lead the offense, but they returned most of the defense from the previous year.
The season started with an impressive victory against Endicott College, where freshman quarterback Mike Hermann relieved fellow classmate quarterback Tanner Boucher and won the starting quarterback job. In the second game against Utica College, Rensselaer was able to pull off a comeback, and senior safety Joe Albano was able to block two field goals in the last few minutes to seal the victory.
RPI was also able to defeat Worcester Polytechnic Institute in the Transit Trophy Game in a shootout in Worcester, Mass., to start the season 3-0. However, in that game against WPI, Hermann suffered a knee injury, which would cause him to miss the next game against the University of Rochester. The Engineers lost their next two games against Rochester and Susquehanna University, and, in both games, the RPI-run defense was constantly shredded.
Following the losses, the Engineers defeated St. Lawrence University on a rainy day at the East Campus Stadium by a score of 10-7. In the following weeks, RPI lost the Dutchman Shoes Trophy to Union College and got shut out by Hobart College to drop their overall record to 4-4 and a Liberty League record of 2-4. In the final game of the season, the Engineers defeated the United States Merchant Marine Academy at ECAV to finish the year strong. Overall, the Engineers finished the year with a 5-4 record, and their 3-4 record in the Liberty League put them fifth in the conference.
Even with a disappointing season, the Engineers had some standout individual performances. On offense, Hermann led the team with 1,276 yards passing and nine passing touchdowns along with 376 yards rushing and six rushing touchdowns. Junior running back Nick Costa ran for 608 yards and four rushing touchdowns. Receivers senior Pat McCarthy, junior Ray Davis, and freshman Austin Caswell had 532, 294, and 211 yards, respectively. McCarthy led the team with four receiving touchdowns.
The leading tacklers for the Engineers were Albano with 70, and seniors Tim Acker, Colin King, and Stefan Schulz with 69, 65, and 65, respectively. Junior lineman Darryl Brown and senior Colton Hill had six sacks and four sacks, respectively, and led the Engineer pass rush. Senior defensive back Bobby Stutz led the team with four interceptions.
Several Engineers finished the season with Liberty League honors. Acker was the only member of the squad to make the All-Liberty League First Team; however, senior Brian Hall, junior Peter Nilson, Brown, King, and Stutz all earned Second Teams honors as well. In addition, Acker became the first RPI defensive back to be named to the 2009 ESPN the Magazine Academic All-America College Division Football Team.
Next season, the Engineers will be in another year of transition. Most of the current starting defensive unit are seniors who are graduating, which leaves many holes on the defensive side of the football. However, the offense should kick into gear next year under Hermann, Costa, McCarthy, and Davis. Also, the freshmen this year will improve with another offseason of development. This season was a building year for the Engineers as they entered with hopes of finding a new quarterback and trying to win the Liberty League. They were able to find their quarterback of the future, but they were not able to win the league. Expectations are high for the 2010 season, though.