TROY, N.Y. – The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) football team scored 15 points in the fourth quarter and held on a first-and-goal situation on the last drive to come-from-behind and defeat the University of Rochester, 28-24, in Liberty League action at East Campus Stadium. The Engineers move to 2-2 and 1-1 in conference play, while the Yellowjackets slip to 1-3 and 0-2.
Down by 11 points heading into the fourth quarter, Rensselaer junior quarterback Mike Hermann (Hardeeville, SC/Avon Old Farms) helped the Engineers close the gap when he ducked past multiple defenders on a 59-yard touchdown just 20 seconds into the quarter. RPI opted for a two-point conversion attempt and after a first try saw the Yellowjackets called for holding, the Engineers converted when Hermann ran it in on a two-yard gain to cut the deficit to 24-21.
After a three-and-out by Rochester gave the Engineers the ball back, Hermann struck again with a 41-yard bullet pass to Austin Caswell (Round Rock, TX/Stony Point) for a 28-24 lead with 3:22 left in the game.
The Yellowjackets didn't hold back in their final drive as senior quarterback Braezen Subick (Mahwah, NJ/Don Bosco Prep) drove the visitors to the RPI 15-yard line with 1:59 left. Rochester then benefited from a pass interference call against the Engineers, but the home team held.
The Yellowjackets attempted three straight fade passes from Subick to senior tight end Thomas Norman (Harrisburg, PA/Central Dauphin) in the right side of the end zone but none connected. Rensselaer senior corner back Nick Herrera (Miami, FL/Belen Jesuit Prep.) was the defender on each attempt, which resulted in the Engineers taking over on downs with less than 30 seconds remaining.
Rochester jumped out to the game's first lead in the opening quarter as running back Clarence Onyiriuka (Painted Post, NY/Corning West) cut through a gap in the middle for a seven-yard touchdown at the 6:00 mark.
The Engineers got the score back two possessions later behind a 65-yard, 4-play series which culminated in a 9-yard rushing touchdown from Hermann as he barreled through several tackles.
It was a back-and-forth battle through the second stanza as neither had many quality offensive chances. RPI had the best opportunity late in the frame when freshman Andrew Franks (Carmel, CA/Carmel) attempted a 34-yard field goal, but his kick into the wind went wide left to keep the score at 7-7 heading into halftime.
The Yellowjackets were the first to score in the second half as a diving 1-yard plunge by Onyiriuka pushed the visitors out to a 14-7 lead. Though the Engineers started with the ball in the half, Rochester benefited from a fumble by RPI wide receiver Steven Burpoe (Saranac Lake, NY/Saranac Lake) and a 54-yard return from Yellowjackets' sophomore linebacker Tony Ortega (Rochester, NY/McQuaid Jesuit).
It took the Engineers 10 plays and 68-yards to gain back the points as Hermann found Caswell on fourth down for a 32-yard reception. The point-after attempt came up wide right and RPI trailed 14-13 with 7:13 left in the third quarter.
The Yellowjackets wasted little time in adding to their lead as Onyiriuka had rushes of 13 and three yards on the next series to get Rochester to the RPI 17-yard line. Subrick then hit a 6-yard pass to Hayes and a 5-yard scoring strike tight end Richard Brunet (Marietta, GA/Walton) for the third score of the day and a 21-13 advantage.
After a three-and-out series for the Engineers late in the third quarter, Rochester regained possession and capitalized with 39 seconds left as junior Alex Antonucci (New York, NY/Loyola School) drilled a 42-yard field goal to make it a 24-13 game.
Hermann's long run and connection to Caswell completed the scoring.
Hermann went 15-of-31 for 218 passing yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran for two scores and a game-high 110 total yards. Caswell had six catches for a career-best 139 yards and two touchdowns.
Rochester saw Subick go 19-of-33 with 260 yards and a touchdown, while throwing two interceptions. Onyiriuka carried the ball 24 times for 73 yards and two scores, while Brunet had three receptions for 43 yards and a score.
On the defensive side, Rensselaer sophomore linebacker Zac Borrelli (Methuen, MA/Central Catholic) led the Engineers with nine tackles, including five solo. Junior free safety Joe Tedder (Stamford, CT/St. Luke's School) also had nine tackles with an interception and a 37-yard return.
Rochester's Ortega led all tacklers with 12, including four unassisted. Senior linebacker Brendan Pidgeon (Oneonta, NY/Oneonta) finished with 11 tackles (five solo).
The Engineers continue their three-game homestand next Saturday when they host Utica at East Campus Stadium. Game time is set for 1pm. The Yellowjackets are idle next week, but return to action on October 15 at Merchant Marine for a 1pm tilt.