Engineers exorcise Red Devils in home opener

The No. 20 Rensselaer Engineers hosted the Dickinson Red Devils in their season opener at East Campus Stadium. The reigning Liberty League champions hoped to start their season off with a win. Prior to kickoff, the Engineers won the coin toss and chose to defer. The Red Devils would start with possession.

Rensselaer’s kick sailed back to the goal line, but Dickinson’s Princeton Douglass returned it all the way to the Red Devil 40-yard line. After a short gain on first down, quarterback Presley Egbers opted to fire a bullet downfield. The receiver couldn’t make the catch, tipping the pass. Fortunately for the Red Devils, the tipped pass fell directly into the arms of Bryce Peterson, who took the reception all the way to the end zone to propel them into a 7‒0 lead less than a minute into the game.

Rensselaer dropped the ensuing kickoff, but managed to return it to the 31-yard line. Although seemingly gaining momentum after a 33-yard catch from D.J. Palmer tip-toeing down the sideline, the Engineers would turn over the ball off of an interception by Red Devil Aleksander Zivanovic. On the following drive, Dickinson marched downfield. After advancing past the 50-yard line, the Engineers forced the Red Devils to punt. The Engineers couldn’t make up yardage when possession was returned: any gain was immediately lost by penalties or tackles in the backfield. The Engineers would punt at their own 34-yard line.

Dickinson’s offense could not be contained. Facing third and 5 at their own 34, they gained 17 yards on a quarterback keeper, bringing them into RPI territory. The Red Devils remained in the lead heading into the second quarter.

The Engineers forced Dickinson to punt 10 seconds into the following quarter, starting their drive at their own 17. On the first play of the possession, RPI gained 14 yards via a completion to Shane Allison, but the Engineers still failed to find their rhythm and punted once again. The Engineers stopped the next Red Devil drive, forcing them to punt. A bad snap sailed past the punter, allowing the Engineers to scoop up the fumble. Despite having empty space in front of him, Cassius Johnson tripped and fell at the 20-yard line.

Dickinson stopped the Engineers on the first three downs, but RPI converted on fourth down to keep the drive alive. Matt Petercuskie gained three yards on a keeper, bringing the Engineers to the five-yard line. Dylan Burnett darted through a gap up the middle into the end zone for the score. The Engineers tied the game up with 8:14 remaining in the half.

DYLAN BURNETT STRUTS into the end zone to tie up the game at 7‒7. Katherine Barney/The Polytechnic

Ignited by the touchdown, the Engineers forced a three-and-out by keeping Dickinson from gaining any yardage. The Engineers gained a first down, then followed up with an incompletion. On second down, Petercuskie stepped up in the pocket and fired a rocket downfield. Gil Goldsmith made the catch and sped down the sideline. After juking a defender, Goldsmith bounded into the end zone for RPI’s second touchdown of the afternoon. The Engineers maintained their 14‒7 lead heading into halftime.

Both teams had a cold start after coming out of the locker rooms, each going three-and-out on their first drive. The Red Devils were the first to break the trend after an RPI punt flew only 18 yards, starting the Dickinson drive at the Engineer 40. They converted on third down but were denied on their next set of downs. In a fourth and 12 scenario at the RPI 31, the Red Devils decided to try their luck. However, a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Dickinson forced them to reconsider. This defensive stalemate ensued for the rest of the third quarter with the Engineers building momentum as they continued their possession into the final quarter.

The Engineers’ offensive woes continued, leading to another punt after burning more than two and a half minutes off the clock. Despite RPI’s lack of offensive production, their defense was up to the challenge and stopped the Red Devils in their tracks in three downs. Another failed drive from the Engineers resulted in a punt. RPI punter Anderson Burke launched a kick into Red Devil territory, tumbling down the sideline until it was finally downed all the way back to the one-yard line by Diego Fernandez. The Engineers’ overwhelming defense kept Dickinson to the one-yard line for a three-and-out.

Peter Lombardi received the resulting punt at the Dickinson 43, returning it 31 yards all the way to the 12. Despite the advantageous field position, two holding calls on the Engineers pushed them back 14 yards. Unable to earn a first down, the Engineer offense stayed on for the fourth down conversion. The Red Devil defense sacked Petercuskie for seven yards, turning the ball over on downs at the Dickinson 30 with 6:45 on the clock. The RPI defense remained dialed in, forcing the Red Devils to punt once more.

Taking over at their own 38-yard line, the Engineers ate up the clock with rushes. Dickinson would not regain possession until there was less than three minutes remaining. The Engineers’ saving grace, their defense, secured the victory. On third down, Dickinson threw a deep ball down the field needing to gain a first down. Engineer C.J. Lyons cut in front of the receiver and got a hand on it, allowing Spencer Brockdorff to easily intercept the pass and immediately go to ground.

RPI starts the season off with a 14‒7 win, putting them on the right track for a repeat of their NCAA tournament run last year. The Engineers will be back in action next Saturday, September 10, at East Campus Stadium to take on the Carnegie Mellon Tartans at 1 pm. Click here for the box score and here for the RPI TV broadcast.

ENGINEERS SING "Hail!" after winning their first game of the season. Katherine Barney/The Polytechnic