After struggling to run the football against St. Lawrence University last weekend, RPI football’s backfield willed the team to victory against the University of Rochester Yellowjackets on Saturday. Senior running back Nick Schlatz led all rushers with 27 rushes for 115 yards and added two touchdowns while sophomore Mike Tivinis powered his way to 80 yards on 12 attempts. RPI also took advantage of four University of Rochester turnovers, including three interceptions by Yellowjackets quarterback Justin Redfern, to win 35-21.
After RPI sophomore punter Matt Raczak punted 43 yards to the Yellowjackets four-yard line, a University of Rochester facemask penalty moved them back to their own two. Rochester was not intimidated by their poor field position, though. Instead, they took the RPI defense by surprise with their no-huddle attack. Redfern completed all three of his passes for 65 yards, including a 49-yarder to wide receiver Farid Adenuga, and tailback Shane Saucier capped off the drive with a two-yard touchdown.
The lead didn’t last long. On the ensuing kickoff, sophomore running back Johnny Ramsdell took the ball at the RPI 16, made a few Yellowjackets miss, and sprinted 84 yards for the tying score.
Midway through the first quarter, the Engineers took advantage of an interception by junior linebacker Alex Greenidge to take the lead on a 15-yard touchdown run by Schlatz. Then, on the next Rochester drive, senior defensive back Philip Lanieri III jumped up and intercepted a deep pass by Redfern at the RPI two-yard line to keep the Engineers in front.
Early in the second quarter, Lanieri intercepted Redfern again, marking the third Rensselaer takeaway in as many drives. However, the Engineers failed to capitalize on these miscues and the score remained 14-7 heading into halftime.
The Engineers expanded their lead to 21-7 on the first drive of the second half when senior running back Matt Lane scored from two yards out. The touchdown capped off a 16-play, 94-yard grinder of a drive that featured 13 RPI runs for 51 yards and two 15-yard Rochester facemask penalties.
It was Rochester’s turn to respond quickly. On the first play of the Yellowjacket’s subsequent drive, Saucier burst through the RPI front line and raced 69 yards for his second score of the afternoon. Later, on their next drive, Redfern found an open Kyle Allegrini for a 26-yard touchdown to tie the game at 21.
In the fourth quarter, Rochester tried for a first down on fourth and one at their own 29, but Greenidge and junior defensive lineman Thomas Bennett plugged the gap and stopped Yellowjackets running back Myles Allen for no gain. Then, after senior quarterback Jeff Avery hit senior wide receiver Pat Hogan for a gain of 16 yards, Tivinis finished the drive with a 6-yard score to put the Engineers back in front with a score of 28-21.
After the Rensselaer defense stopped Rochester on another fourth down conversion attempt, the RPI offense drove down the field again. Avery found Lane for a gain of 16 yards on 3rd and six to move the chains. Then Tivinis broke a couple of tackles and picked up 19 yards to bring the ball to the Rochester 16. Later, Avery hit Hogan again on 3rd and eight for nine yards and set up a first and goal. After the RPI offense gained just one yard on the next three plays, sophomore kicker Christian Kapp made a 21-yard field goal to add to the Engineers lead. However, during the play, a Rochester defender ran into Kapp and was penalized, resulting in a first down at the two-yard line for RPI.
Rensselaer capitalized on this mistake with a two-yard rushing touchdown by Schlatz, his second score of the game. Then, for the fourth and last time of the game, the RPI defense stamped out a Rochester drive by forcing a turnover. This time, sophomore defensive back Bryan Hayes ripped the ball away from Yellowjackets receiver Derek Wager and senior defensive back Teague Florio fell on the football at the RPI 10. This turnover effectively ended Rochester’s chances of a comeback and the Engineers won 35-21.
Redfern finished with 224 yards passing for Rochester while Avery tallied 161 for RPI. Adenuga led all receivers with 83 yards on six catches while Lane led RPI with six catches for 64 yards. Rochester linebackers David Wolff and Thomas Marone led all defenders with 11 tackles each while Hayes and senior linebacker Mark Grimes totaled 10 each for the Engineers. In addition, sophomore lineman John Hartman recorded the only sack of the game for RPI.
RPI, now 5-2, will play at Hobart College next Saturday, October 25.