Utica Posts 38-28 Victory over Rensselaer

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TROY, N.Y. - Powered by 552 yards of offense, including 263 yards on the ground, the Utica College football team defeated Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), 38-28, in  non-conference action at East Campus Stadium.  With the victory, the Pioneers, who got 177  yards on the ground from junior Jake Larson, move to 3-2.  The Engineers, who had 429 yards of total offense, slip to 2-3.

Larson (Bemus Point, NY/Maple Grove) rushed 19 times for 173 yards with a 62-yard, fourth quarter touchdown.  Sophomore Jesse Baldassare (Mt. Sinai, NY/Mt. Sinai) added 92 yards rushing with two touchdowns, including a 48-yarder, on 13 attempts for the Pioneers.

The Engineers got on the board first with a series that took just three plays.  Junior wide  receiver Austin Caswell (Round Rock, TX/Stony Point) pushed Rensselaer downfield when he caught a screen pass and ran 61-yards to the Utica 19-yard line.  Quarterback Mike
Hermann (Hardeeville, SC/Avon Old Farms) then carried the ball to the 8-yard line and followed that a with a fake hand-off that he pulled back and scored for a 7-0 advantage at the 6:13 mark.

Utica answered at 10:42 of the second quarter when Baldassare carried the ball in from 2-yards out.  Highlighting the drive was a 25-yard pass by Andrew Benkwitt (Mamaroneck, NY/Mamaroneck) to sophomore wide receiver Anthony Acevedo (New Hartford, NY/New Hartford), which brought the Pioneers down to the Engineers' 2-yard line.

The visitors wasted little time in taking the lead when senior cornerback Jon White (Endicott, NY/Union-Endicott) intercepted a pass and returned it 61-yards.  A pair of penalties at the end of the run saw Utica at the Engineers' 8-yard line.  Benkwitt completed the drive with a pass to sophomore fullback Alexander Ruta (Hilton, NY/Hilton) in the right corner of the end zone for a 14-7 advantage with 6:04 left in the second quarter.

Rensselaer fought back late in the stanza as a series of passes by Hermann, including a 10-yarder to sophomore tight end Joe Cozzolino (Chatham, NY/Chatham) drove the Engineers down the field.  The pair connected at the end of the drive with Cozzolino catching a 5-yard touchdown pass with 52 seconds to play.

The Pioneers charged their way into the RPI end of the field, thanks in part to good field position at their own 40 yard line.  Benkwitt completed a 44-yard pass to Acevedo for a first down at the Engineers' 14-yard line.  Following three straight incomplete passes, junior Seth
Mitchell (Fonda, NY/Fonda-Fultonville) kicked a 31-yard field goal for a 17-14 lead.

Utica came out of halftime with the ball and Benkwitt hit junior tight end Matt Dunn (Miller Place, NY/Miller Place) for a 4-yard touchdown on its first series.  Dunn highlighted the drive with a 19-yard completion.

The Engineers retaliated two series later as a 22-yard rushing effort by senior TJ Strunk  (West Palm Beach, FL/Benjamin) and a 13-yard pass from Hermann to junior Nick Weber  (Winchester, MA/Winchester) pushed RPI downfield.  The drive culminated in a 2-yard touchdown run by Hermann and the Engineers trailed by three, 24-21.

The Pioneers pushed their lead back to 10 points on the 48-yard run by Baldassare with just 38 seconds left in the third quarter.  Once again Rensselaer pulled to within three points, this time on a 3-yard rush by Hermann - his third of the day - at 11:41.

Utica answered on the ensuing drive when Larson ran it in from 62-yards downfield to make it a 10-point contest, 38-28, with 9:29 left in the game.

Benkwitt finished the day by completing 22 of 34 passes with no interceptions and two touchdowns.  Acevedo was the leading reciever with eight catches for 157 yards.

Pacing the Utica defense was sophomore linebacker Dana Christofferson (Richford, NY/Dryden), who led all tacklers with 12 stops, including five solo.  Junior safety Luke Manolescu (New York Mills, NY/Notre Dame) finished with 10 tackles.

Defensively for RPI, senior Zach Scruggs (Auburn, GA/Dacula) and junior Matthew Day (Claremont, NH/Stevens) each recorded 11 tackles, while sophomore Zac Borelli (Methuen, MA/Central Catholic) had 10 stops.

Hermann completed 15 of 25 for 216 yards and a touchdown.  He was intercepted twice.  He also carried the ball 23 times for 99 yards and three TDs.  Strunk also had a solid effort on the ground with 15 rushes for a career-best 111 yards.

The Engineers are idle next week, returning on October 22 to conclude their three-game homestand against Liberty League-rival St. Lawrence. The game, which begins at 1pm at East Campus Stadium, marks Homecoming and Reunion Weekend.  The Pioneers host Empire-8 rival Hartwick on Homecoming Weekend next Saturday, also at 1pm.

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