Engineers edge Hobart in 29-28 win

RPI football blocks two field goal attempts to maintain narrow one-point lead

JUNIOR TIGHT END MIKE BLAIS CLUTCHES the ball as he runs down the field during a recent RPI home game. Blais scored a touchdown in the 29-28 win over Hobart College.

Backed by the spectacular performance of junior quarterback Mike Hermann, the Rensselaer football team rallied to a 29-28 victory over formerly nationally-ranked Hobart College. The Engineers are now 4-4 overall with a 3-2 Liberty League record, while then-No. 24 Hobart suffered its first loss of the season to fall to 6-1 overall and 4-1 in conference play.

Despite holding a 28-17 lead in the first half, the Hobart Statesmen could not overcome RPI’s defensive core to hold onto the win. The Engineers blocked two fourth quarter field goal attempts by the Statesmen to keep Hobart off the scoreboard for the final 30 minutes of play.

Hobart scored on its first possession off a 13-play, 79-yard drive down the field that ended in a 1-yard run by junior Bobby Dougherty. Although the Statesmen failed to score on their next possession, they converted on their next three drives.

Holding a 7-0 lead following the first quarter, Hobart added 21 more points before the half. Junior tight end Brent Matazinsky grabbed a 19-yard touchdown pass to cap off a four-play, 45-yard drive. Four minutes later, Hobart junior quarterback Nick Strang connected with senior wideout Garth Muratori for a 6-yard touchdown.

Midway through the second quarter, the Rensselaer offense finally found its groove. Hermann hit junior wide receiver Steven Burpoe with a cross pass that resulted into a 46-yard touchdown. However, Hobart responded with what would be its final score of the day with an eight-play, 70-yard drive that ended in a 25-yard rush by sophomore Steven Webb.

With 2:17 remaining in the first half, junior tight end Mike Blais made it a 28-14 game for the Engineers off a 62-yard reception for a touchdown. After the Statesmen regained possession, they gave RPI the ball back with a punt which saw sophomore linebacker Zac Borrelli recover the ball and return it to the Hobart 24. Although the Statesmen were able to break up a pass attempt by Hermann on third-and-goal, the Engineers tacked up three more points on the scoreboard off a 21-yard field goal from freshman kicker Andrew Franks.

RPI’s momentum, both offensively and defensively, carried into the second half. The defense forced Hobart to punt on its opening drive of the second half as the offense countered with a 11-play, 72-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown. Hermann connected with sophomore wide receiver Reggie Colas for a 21-yard reception and a first down and later capped off the drive with a 1-yard pass to junior Matt Wood. RPI opted for a two-point conversion following the score, but saw the play end in an incomplete pass to leave the Statesmen up 28-23.

The Engineers finally took the lead at 9:16 of the fourth quarter off an 11-yard touchdown run by Hermann, ending a 78-yard march down the field. Again RPI attempted the two-point conversion but failed to score the extra points, leaving a slim 29-28 margin over the Statesmen.

With 4:56 remaining in the game and only down one point, the Statesmen attempted a field goal from 25 yards, but saw RPI seniors Zach Scruggs and Nick Herrera break through the Hobart line to block the kick.

Hermann finished 22-for-37 with no interceptions, three touchdowns, and 299 yards thrown. Burpoe caught the ball five times for the Engineers, totaling 71 yards and scoring a touchdown. Defensively, sophomore Ted Abriel posted 10 tackles for RPI, while juniors Matthew Lauro and Cody Hinrichs and sophomore Joe Cozzolino combined for 13 tackles and three sacks.

Following the game, two Engineers were tabbed with Liberty League weekly awards. Hermann was named the Offensive Performer of the Week, while Herrera was tagged as the Defensive Performer of the Week. This is Hermann’s third weekly honor of the season, in addition to his ECAC Division-III North Offensive Player of the Week award given following the team’s 51-21 win on September 17 over Castleton State College. Herrera earned his first weekly award of the season after blocking Hobart’s field goal attempt from 25-yards out with 4:56 left in regulation. In addition, Herrera had three unassisted tackles, bringing his season total to 29.

The Statesmen still have a chance at the Liberty League title and an automatic bid to the NCAA Playoffs, but the same can’t be said for the Engineers, who will play their final game of the season this weekend. RPI will take on the U.S. Merchant Marine at 2 pm at the East Campus Stadium on Saturday to close out the regular season.