Engineers conquer Colonels in battle
Coming off a 38‒27 win at Dickinson College, Rensselaer looked to continue their successful start to the season against the Wilkes University Colonels.
The Engineers received the opening kickoff and began their drive at their 35-yard line. Running back Christian Buckley gained 18 yards on the first three plays to advance RPI into Colonel territory. After a one-yard loss and an incompletion, the Engineers faced third and 11. One of the defensive linemen jumped offside as the ball was snapped, giving the Engineers a free play. Receiver Hayden Faraday chopped his feet and blew by his defensive back into a gap down the right sideline. Quarterback Jake Kazanowsky arced a pass to Faraday, whose speed made him unstoppable. The 48-yard touchdown was Faraday’s second of the season, putting the Engineers up 7‒0 with the converted extra-point less than three minutes in.
Wilkes started their opening drive at their own 28. The RPI defense made it difficult for the Colonels to march upfield, forcing several third down conversions and ultimately stopping them before they could reach the 50. However, a roughing the kicker penalty on the punt gave possession back to Wilkes. A personal foul on the Engineers on the ensuing second down gave the Colonels an additional 15 yards, placing them just outside the red zone. The RPI defense managed to force a fourth down at the 13-yard line, but a three-yard rush was enough to earn Wilkes a new set of downs. On second down, quarterback Isaiah Rodriguez rolled out to his right and found receiver Jason Dean in the end zone to tie the game at 7‒7. The Engineers went three-and-out on the next drive. Wilkes regained possession at their own 25 with two and a half minutes left in the first quarter.
On the third play of the Colonels’ drive, Rodriguez threw a quick pass to Justin Moore at the line of scrimmage. Moore advanced four yards before being wrapped up from behind by Nate Sicard, who managed to punch the ball loose. RPI’s Diego Fernandez pounced on the forced fumble, giving the Engineers possession in the Colonels’ half of the field. On the very next play, receiver Sterling Walker-Sutton exploited the zone defense and ran into acres of space behind the secondary. Kazanowsky launched a deep throw to Walker-Sutton for a 41-yard touchdown. After forcing the Colonels to go three-and-out before the end of the quarter, the Engineers headed into the second quarter with possession at the Wilkes 29 and a 14‒7 lead.
RPI advanced 18 yards in four plays, forcing the Colonels to take a timeout less than two minutes into the second quarter. On the next play, Kazanowsky dropped back into the pocket after forcing one of the Wilkes linemen to jump offside. The RPI quarterback looked to target a double-teamed Faraday on the left side of the field, but quickly reconsidered. Evading the rushing Colonels, Kazanowsky picked out Shane Allison to his right. The tight end powered his way down to the goal line, setting up Kazanowsky for a one-yard rushing touchdown on the next play to put RPI up 21‒7. Solid defense from both teams prevented any points from being scored for the rest of the half.
Wilkes received the kickoff to start the second half but went three-and-out. Following the punt, the Engineers took over deep in their own territory at the 27. On the second play of the drive, Kazanowsky fired a dart to Walker-Sutton upfield as a rusher closed in. Walker-Sutton made the catch, then immediately cut to his right and put a Colonel on skates. He ran for another 36 yards before being dragged down at the two-yard line for a gain of 65 yards. A two-yard rush from Buckley on the next play scored the Engineers’ fourth touchdown, putting them up 28‒7.
The following kickoff was chipped high into the air by kicker Jared Elstein. The Colonels failed to properly read the bounce caused by the end-over-end rotation of the ball, allowing RPI’s Jeremiah Wolo to recover the onside kick at the Wilkes 29. After marching upfield, the Engineers faced third and 9 at the 12-yard line. Kazanowsky threw a quick screen to Kayden White on his right, the routes of the receivers creating plenty of space on the right sideline for White to stroll into the end zone for another RPI touchdown.
The mobile Xavier Powell replaced Rodriguez at quarterback for Wilkes in the second half. The Colonels went on a seven-minute drive following the last Engineer touchdown, relying on Powell rushing the football. This brute-force approach succeeded as the RPI defense failed to stop Powell from rushing for a touchdown and a total of 46 rushing yards on the drive. Wilkes slashed the Engineer lead down to 21 points with less than two minutes remaining in the third quarter.
The Engineers primarily ran the ball in the fourth quarter to kill off the game. Elstein kicked a 24-yard field goal through the uprights with six minutes remaining to increase the RPI lead to 38‒14. The Engineers defense forced three incompletions on the next Wilkes drive, halting any chance of a comeback.
The win is the Engineers’ second of the season out of two games. Click here for the box score and here for the RPI TV broadcast. RPI’s next outing is the Transit Trophy game at Worcester Polytechnic Institute on September 16 at 5 pm.