RPI defensive line blocks SLU Saints

JUNIOR TIGHT END MIKE BLAIS RUNS the ball into the end zone for RPI’s first of two touchdowns on the day. The play came with just under two minutes remaining in the first quarter.

Backed by a strong defensive performance, Rensselaer football defeated the St. Lawrence University Saints by a 14-7 margin in front of a large crowd at the East Campus Stadium during Reunion & Homecoming Weekend. The Engineers are now 3-3 overall and 2-1 in the Liberty League, while the Saints are 2-5 overall with a 1-3 conference mark.

RPI’s defensive core allowed the Saints a mere 162 yards of offense and limited the visitors to only nine first downs. St. Lawrence’s only score of the game came off an interception that was returned for a touchdown.

The Engineers scored their first of two touchdowns on the team’s third possession of the game. Junior quarterback Mike Hermann connected with sophomore Reggie Colas for an 18-yard reception to get Rensselaer started down the field. Senior TJ Strunk’s 3-yard run brought the Engineers down to the Saints’ 15 yard line, and junior Austin Caswell brought the team within six yards of the goal line off a 9-yard reception. Hermann found junior tight end Mike Blais in the end zone for the first score of the day. Freshman kicker Andrew Franks easily made the point-after to give RPI a 7-0 lead with 1:55 remaining in the first quarter.

Just before the end of the first half, the Engineers struck again in a 12-play, 81-yard drive that resulted in another touchdown with 2:59 left in the second quarter. Hermann connected with junior wideout Steven Burpoe and Caswell to bring the homestanding Engineers to the RPI 37 yard line. After ducking past two defenders, Hermann made a successful pass to Strunk for a 15-yard reception. Strunk rushed for a combined six yards sandwiched around a 9-yard pass from Hermann to junior Nick Weber. After adding eight more yards to bring the Engineers just outside of the red zone, Hermann struck Weber with a 23-yard pass for the touchdown.

Junior linebacker Matthew Day recovered a SLU fumble with 1:22 remaining before half time, but the Engineers were unable to convert on the unexpected possession.

RPI’s defense continued strong into the second half, limiting the Saints to only 32 yards of offense. However, a mistake by the Engineer offense led to St. Lawrence’s only score of the game. Senior SLU defensive back Christian Bianchi found himself in front of a Hermann throw, snagging the ball on the sideline and running 33 yards down the field for the uncontested touchdown. Although the Saints originally were planning on a two-point conversion following the score, a false start penalty moved the ball back five yards and prompted for only the single point attempt.

Still up by seven points, the Engineers held possession for most of the fourth quarter, only letting the Saints touch the ball in one drive. Although RPI held the ball for nearly 12 minutes of play, the team was unable to cross the goal line for a third time.

Leading the defense for the Engineers was junior Cody Hinrichs, who had six tackles, 1.5 sacks, and a pass breakup. Senior Ray Pasco posted six tackles, including four solo, and also had a pass breakup. The defensive core as a whole had four total sacks for 23 yards lost and six pass breakups. Offensively, Hermann finished with 20 of 36 passes completed for 188 yards and two touchdowns. Weber finished as the team’s leading receiver with 58 yards.

The Engineers return to action in the annual Dutchman Shoes Trophy Game, this year being held on Union College’s Frank Bailey Field in Schenectady on Saturday. Rensselaer looks to maintain possession of the Shoes after regaining them in a 21-7 victory at ECAV last season. Game time is set for 1:30 pm.