Rainy day loss during Transit Trophy game

SOPHOMORE MALIEK KELLY PREPARES to catch a long pass. Kelly rushed for 20 yards during Saturday’s game against WPI. (file photo)

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute football faced off against the Worcester Polytechnic Institute Engineers last Saturday at East Campus Stadium in the annual Transit Trophy game. A cold, heavy rainstorm loomed over the Capital Region all day, dumping more than an inch of rain on Troy and making handling the football difficult. In view of the slippery conditions the storm presented, RPI relied heavily on its ground game. Rensselaer rushers pounded through the WPI front line all afternoon, combining for 244 yards rushing on 41 attempts. To counter Rensselaer’s rushing attack, Worcester ran the ball 50 times. However, the RPI defensive front held them to just 140 yards total. But in the end, three Rensselaer turnovers and 16 points in the second half were too much for the home team to overcome as WPI upended RPI by a final score of 19–7.

Early in the second half, trailing 3–0, the RPI offense rumbled its way into Worcester territory with two hard runs by sophomore running back Nick Cella and a 15-yard run by elusive sophomore rusher Maliek Kelly. Then, freshman quarterback Tommy Avery broke loose, sprinting 39 yards to the WPI six, on what was the longest play of the day for the home team. On the next play, junior running back Nick Esposito took the handoff up the middle and ran it into the end zone to give RPI a 7–3 lead.

The numbers were not great for Worcester quarterback Dan Eckler on Saturday. He completed just 13 of his 32 passing attempts for 158 yards. But several of his completions set up scores for the visiting team. The first of these came late in the first quarter on a 27-yard completion to running back Connor Field, in which Field broke loose and scampered to the Rensselaer 35.

This pass and three shorter ones allowed Worcester to move the ball inside the RPI 20 and kick a 29-yard field goal early in the second quarter.

After an RPI fumble midway through the third quarter, Worcester took over on Rensselaer’s side of the field. Eckler completed a 23-yard pass over the middle of the field to WPI wide receiver Brandon Eccher. The throw moved the visiting Engineers to the RPI 13-yard line and set up a rushing touchdown for WPI running back Sean McAllen four plays later that put WPI ahead 10–7.

Later, in the fourth quarter, WPI plowed their way down to the RPI one-yard line but were stuffed three straight times by the tough front line of Rensselaer.

Then the Rensselaer offense stumbled. Wells, who had compiled an excellent game up to that point, took the handoff from Avery only to see nothing but a brick wall of Worcester linemen sealing off his running route. WPI defensive lineman Dereck Pacheco wrapped up Wells in the end zone for a Worcester safety and gave the visiting Engineers a 12–7 lead with less than seven minutes remaining.

On the ensuing drive, Eckler completed a short pass to receiver Steven Thulin, who raced 21 yards to the RPI 11. On the next play, Worcester running back Connor Field broke through the RPI line for one of only three 10-plus yard runs for the visiting Engineers, scoring a touchdown and putting the game out of reach for RPI, 19–7.

For RPI, senior linebacker Alexander Greenidge tallied 15 tackles to lead all defenders and junior defensive back Sean Egan added eight tackles, an interception, and a forced fumble.

Next up for 4–4 Rensselaer is a road game at Springfield College next Saturday, November 5.