Rensselaer hosts Norwich in the first game of 2015. The Engineers, under third-year head coach Ralph Insernia, are coming off a 6-5 campaign, which saw them capture both the Transit Trophy and Dutchman Shoes Trophy and return to the post-season with an ECAC Championship Bowl bid.
Norwich posted a 7-4 record in 2014, ending the season with a 48-21 loss to Salve Regina in the ECAC Division III Northest Championship Bowl.
This is the 15th all-time meeting between Rensselaer and Norwich, with the Cadets holding a 7-4-3 advantage in the series. The programs met in 2013 in the season opener, marking the first meeting between the schools in 50 years. The Engineers came away with a 20-7 win and were also victorious last season, 29-9.
In the last 15 years, RPI is 13-2 in season-opening games with two of those victories coming against Norwich. The Engineers are riding a three-game winning streak with their last loss coming in 2011 to No. 17 Alfred ... Prior to that defeat, RPI had not dropped a season opener since 2000. Of Rensselaer's last 15 openers, the defense has allowed 10 or fewer points in 13 of them. The Engineers are 6-1 in their last seven season openers at home including 3-0 at East Campus Stadium.
The Engineers play a 10-game schedule with five games at home and five on the road. Three teams on their slate played in the post-season last year: MIT advanced to the second round of the NCAA Playoffs, Hobart made it to the third round of the national tournament and Norwich played in an ECAC Bowl. RPI's schedule features alternating weeks at home and on the road.
EARLY START: September 5 is the earliest Rensselaer football has ever started a season ... The Engineers played last year on September 6.
NON-LEAGUE GAMES: Rensselaer begins the 2015 campaign with three non-league games: Norwich, at Alfred and MIT.
TROPHY GAMES: Once again this year, the Engineers play two trophy games: September 26 at WPI for the Transit Trophy and November 14 at Union for the Dutchman Shoes Trophy ... They are also Liberty League contests ... RPI has possession of both trophies.
BYE WEEK: Rensselaer's bye week is week 9, which is Halloween, October 31.
UPCOMING: RPI is on the road next week, traveling to Alfred to face the Saxons ... Kickoff is at 1pm.
FOLLOW THE ACTION: All Rensselaer football games will be aired live on WRPI, 91.5 FM, and on the Internet at www.wrpi.org ... All home games feature live statistics at http://www.sidearmstats.com/rpi/football/ ... A live, free webcast is available for the home games at www.rpitv.org.
A SEASON AGO: The Engineers are coming off a season in which they played in the post-season, dropping the ECAC North Atlantic Bowl at Framingham State in overtime (42-36) to finish 6-5 overall ... RPI was 4-3 in the Liberty League, finishing third ... Norwich posted a 7-4 record in 2014 (5-2 ECFC), ending the season with a 48-21 loss to Salve Regina in the ECAC Northeast Bowl.
MEET THE ENGINEERS: Rensselaer returns 15 starters (9 offense) and 62 veterans ... The Engineers have added 57 newcomers to the roster.
WELCOME BACK: The returning starters on offense include left tackle Ken Berryhill, center Steve Mills, right guard Seth Stauble, right tackle Scott Davis Jr., wide receivers Logan Gaddar and Pat Hogan, running backs Matt Lane and Nick Schlatz and quarterback Jeff Avery ... They are all seniors except Mills, who is a junior ... On defense, the returning starters are linebackers Anthony Pilla, Mark Grimes and Alexander Greenidge and defensive backs Brad Gahagan, Philip Lanieri III and Ryan Buss.
TWO-DEEP BREAKDOWN: RPI's offensive two-deep features 10 seniors, six juniors, three sophomores and three freshmen ... The defense includes five seniors, six juniors, seven sophomores and four freshmen ... On special teams there are two seniors, two juniors, five sophomores and two freshmen.
CAPTAINS: Seniors Jeff Avery, Anthony Pilla and Nick Schlatz will serve as captains of the Engineers ... The trio was elected by their teammates ... Avery is the starting quarterback who led last year's team to a 4-1 record before suffering a season-ending injury in the sixth game ... He completed 51 of 101 passes (50.5%) for 892 yards and 11 touchdowns with only two interceptions ... He also rushed for 184 yards and two touchdowns ... Pilla is an outside linebacker who has started each of the past two seasons ... Last year he compiled 41 tackles, including 22 unassisted, led the team with 8.5 tackles for lost yards (32) and had 2.5 sacks (17 yards) ... He had a team-best three forced fumbles, recovering one, with a blocked kick on his way to an All-Liberty League Second Team selection ... A fourth-year varsity performer at running back, Schlatz has rushed for 938 yards and six touchdowns on 220 carries in 28 career games ... He has also caught 28 passes for 48 yards ... He rushed for 644 yards and a touchdown on 146 carries and caught five passes for 38 yards last season.
PRE-SEASON POLL: The Engineers were picked to finish tied for third in the Liberty League Pre-Season Coaches Poll ... St. Lawrence (46 points) was first, followed by Hobart (45) and RPI and Springfield (30) ... Rochester and Union were picked fifth (25) with WPI (14) and Merchant Marine (9) filling out the bottom two spots.
DEPARTMENT HONORS: A number of football student-athletes were recognized with year-end Rensselaer Athletics awards in May ... Presented the Annual Strength & Conditioning Career Athlete Award, given to two senior student-athletes who, during their athletic careers, who were leaders in the strength & conditioning environment was Nick Borkowski ... Reggie Colas was awarded a Perseverance Award for overcoming significant physical or personal obstacles and demonstrating exceptional effort in exhibiting their commitment to their teammates and the Institute ... Borkowski and Colas, along with Andrew Franks and Jay Yaskanich, were inducted into Olympia, the department's athletic honor society.
NFF HONOR SOCIETY: Three Rensselaer student-athletes were recognized as members of the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame 2015 Hampshire Honor Society ... Seniors Nick Borkowski, Kyle Hash and Jay Yaskanich were each selected for membership, which is made up of college football players from all divisions who maintained a cumulative 3.2 grade point average or better throughout their college careers.
TEAM AWARDS: The football team' year-end award winners included numerous student-athletes being recognized, , highlighted by the presentation of the Player of the Year Award to Reggie Colas ... Also receiving awards were Nick Borkowski (Defensive Player of the Year), Andrew Franks (Special Teams Player of the Year), Steve Mills (Offensive Lineman of the Year), Chris Ohnsman (Defensive Lineman of the Year), Mike Tivinis (Offensive Rookie of the Year) and Diego Cuitino (Defensive Rookie of the Year) ... Others who were recognized were Jay Yaskanich as the Scholar Athlete Award winner, Alex Alvarez and Oliver Kaija as Offensive and Defensive Scout Team Players of the Year, respectively, and Connor Young and Shane Drummond as George Bode Coaches Award winners ... Logan Gaddar, Pat Hogan, Matt Lane, Nick Schlatz and Seth Stauble were named Ultimate Grinder Award recipients on offense, while Mark Grimes, Phil Lanieri III, Colby Tragni, Anthony Pilla and Andre Lussier earned the honor on defense.
COACHING ADDITIONS: Third-year head coach Ralph Isernia has brought on three new assistant coaches for the 2014 season ... Nick Marcella coaches the wide receivers, Damik Scafe mentors the defensive line and Steve Hladio coaches the inside linebackers ... Marcella is a 2015 graduate of Saint Anselm, where he played wide receiver ... Scafe comes to Rensselaer as part of the NFLPA Coaching Internship, which provides transitioning and former NFL players with an opportunity to gain in-depth, foundational coaching experience ... He was a defensive tackle for the San Diego Chargers for four seasons (2011-14) following a standout career at Boston College ... Hladio is in his second stint with Engineers, having also coached the offensive line and running backs from 2011-13.
2014 OFFENSIVE STAT LEADERS: Quarterback Jeff Avery threw for a team-high 892 yards, completing 51-of-101 (50.5%) passes ... He recorded 11 touchdowns and two interceptions in six games ... Nick Schlatz led the ground game with 644 yards and one touchdown on a team-high 146 carries ... The top receiver was Logan Gaddar, who finished with 20 catches for 469 yards and six touchdowns.
2014 DEFENSIVE STAT LEADERS: Safety Nick Borkowski finished with a team-best 67 tackles including 40 unassisted and 6.0 for lost yards (16) ... He also broke up seven passes and had four interceptions (138 return yards) ... Linebacker Colby Tragni was second with 55 stops (29 solo) including 5.0 for lost yards (13) ... Ryan Buss paced RPI with 11 pass breakups, while Phil Lanieri III led the Engineers in interceptions for the second straight year with six (25 return yards).
2014 SPECIAL TEAMS LEADERS: Andrew Franks made 16 field goals incuding a school record 54 yarder, averaged 61.4 yards on kickoffs and averaged 38.6 yards per punt to lead the Engineers special teams ... The Liberty League Special Teams Player of the Year for the second season, he was a consensu All-America kicker.