Football can’t quite catch Springfield in home finale

SENIOR QUARTERBACK BRENDAN McGLYNN PREPARES to throw for a pass in the Engineers’ 28-35 loss to Springfield.

On an overcast Senior Day at East Campus Stadium, the Engineers’ football team took on the Springfield Pride in hopes of picking up their second straight win. But, despite mounting a late comeback which involved two key takeaways by its defense, RPI fell seven points short, 35-28. This loss brings RPI to an overall record of 4-5 and a conference record of 1-5, while the Pride move to 5-3.

The contest started slowly with a three-and-out (punt) for each team to begin the game. This changed with RPI’s second drive, which began at Springfield’s 41-yard line after a 38-yard punt by Pride punter Tyler Rouse ’16. Four plays later, senior quarterback Jessie Maynard completed his sole passing attempt of the afternoon for 26 yards and a touchdown to sophomore tight end Pat Hogan, making the score 7-0.

Later in the first, Springfield’s running game, led by running back Christian Clarke ’17 and quarterback Timothy O’Brien ’16 began to get into gear. But on third down and 5, sophomore linebacker Anthony Pilla snuffed out a fake handoff by O’Brien and tackled him for a loss of three. The punt that ensued from Rouse was nearly flawless, trundling out of bounds at Rensselaer’s 1-yard line.

The punt turned out to be an important play for Springfield  as two plays later a corner blitz resulted in a Brendan McGlynn ’14 fumble that was recovered by the Pride at the Engineers’ two yard line. Moments later, Springfield’s O’Brien punched it in from a yard out to tie the score at 7 early in the second quarter.

RPI answered almost immediately. Less than two minutes into the second, senior tight end Joe Cozzolino broke away from his defender and caught McGlynn’s well-timed throw for a 47-yard touchdown.

Springfield’s counterstrike came even quicker. After a 53-yard strike from O’Brien to wide receiver Jason Woods ’14, Springfield’s Christian Rodriguez ’17 cut right and found a gap in the defense, scoring from 7 yards out to tie it at 14.

This time the Institute was unable to answer with a score of their own. After a holding penalty put them into a first and 20, a hurried throw by McGlynn went offline and was intercepted by Springfield’s Sam Weiss ’14.

Springfield, on the other hand, kept its offensive momentum going on the following drive. After a 26-yard completion by O’Brien to move the chains, the quarterback ran right, found the edge, and brought it all the way for a third Springfield touchdown.
Late in the second quarter, McGlynn once again led RPI down the field, completing two passes to Cozzolino and later converting with a Qb keeper on third down to keep the drive alive. But the drive stalled and on a fourth and 2 from the opposition’s 23-yard line the boys in red failed to convert, turning the ball over on downs to the Pride.

Diminishing offensive opportunities characterized the end of the first half, and the score remained 21-14 Springfield after 30 minutes of play.

The defenses continued to have their way for the first half of the third quarter, as both offenses were forced to punt on their first possessions of the second half. This all changed, however, when missed tackles allowed what  appeared to be another no-gainer run to turn into a 52-yard breakaway touchdown up the middle for Springfield’s O’Brien, marking his third score of the afternoon.

A few sloppy plays in a row resulted in a turnover for each side midway through the third including a Ryan Buss interception for RPI. Then, late in the third, sophomore defensive back Phil Lanieri picked off O’Brien in Springfield territory. This turned into 7 points for RPI when, two minutes later, a go-route down the sideline resulted in a 19-yard touchdown grab for wideout Logan Gaddar.

It seemed as though the momentum would continue to swing further in Rensselaer’s favor when freshman Malik Joseph forced a fumble by Springfield at midfield. But a three and out led to another punt by junior Andrew Franks to the Pride’s 9-yard line.

The next play looked as though it might break the will of the men in red. On a pitch left to Springfield’s Jonathan Marrero ’16, well-placed blocks led to a 91-yard sprint down the sideline and a fifth touchdown for the Pride.

But the Engineers didn’t shy away. Instead, runs by McGlynn and senior Andrew Armato, as well as two more receptions by Cozzolino, quickly put RPI at its opponent’s 30 yard line. This drive was capped off on the very next play by a beautiful one-hand grab by Gaddar to put RPI back within seven.

Then, another O’Brien turnover handed Rensselaer the ball deep in Springfield territory. Unfortunately for the Engineers, a subsequent first and goal from the 3 led to zero points as they were stuffed on four straight plays.

The game ended with a 14-play, seven minute, forty four second drive that allowed Springfield to hold onto the ball for the remainder of the game without ever giving RPI a second chance to tie the score. During the drive that, in essence, was a microcosm of the whole game for Springfield’s offense; they converted on three third downs to keep the ball out of the hands of the Engineers’ offense.

In a game characterized by big plays and huge swings of momentum, many performances stand out for the red and white. Tight end Joe Cozzolino ’14 had six catches for 92 yards and a score. Senior Brendan McGlynn completed over 300 yards of total offense and showed his toughness throughout, shaking off many big hits from opposing defenders on the 23 runs he had. Sophomore Anthony Pilla had thirteen total tackles and two sacks. Lastly, sophomore defenders Brandon Cook and Mark Grimes each had ten tackles, making many big stops to help their team stay in the contest.

RPI will finish its season this Saturday at Union College with a chance to finish its season with a .500 winning percentage.