Rodrick Payne rushed for 124 yards on 21 carries and scored a pair of touchdowns as the St. Lawrence University football team, ranked No. 14 in the country, remained unbeaten with a 26-14 victory over Union College Saturday afternoon in a Liberty League matchup on Weeks Field at Leckonby Stadium in Canton.
St. Lawrence (8-0 Overall, 5-0 Liberty League) scored the first 16 points of the game on touchdowns by Mitch Gallagher and Payne while Chyron Brown-Wallace tackled the Union (2-6, 1-4) running back in the end zone for a safety all in the first 15 minutes of action.
Union scored midway through the second quarter on a 24-yard pass play and the rest of the scoring occurred in the final quarter. Daly Hebert booted a 22-yard field goal for the Saints in the fourth quarter before Union scored on a short pass with 4:20 remaining to trim the lead to 19-14.
After a failed on-sides kick attempt for he Dutchmen, the Saints ran down the field including four carries for 40 yards for Payne to score the final touchdown of the game for the 26-14 win.
The victory, coupled with a Hobart come-from-behind win over WPI, sets up the much-anticipated matchup of St. Lawrence and Hobart next weekend in Canton in a game that could determine the Liberty League championship. A St. Lawrence victory would clinch the title for the Saints.
The eight wins in a season marks the third consecutive season with at least eight victories and makes head coach Dan Puckhaber the first coach in St. Lawrence history to win eight times in his first season as head coach. Ted Stratford was 7-1 for the Saints in his first season as head coach in 1969.
Against Union, the Dutchmen won the opening coin toss and deferred its option to the second half giving the Saints the first possession of the game. Quarterback Sean Richardson took advantage with a six-play scoring drive capped by the 15-yard touchdown pass from Richardson to Gallagher.
After a Union three-play drive and a punt, the Saints started its second drive with an 11-play drive that stalled at the 33 yard line. Austen Lauricella punted the ball 32 yards to the one-yard line.
On the first play from scrimmage, Brown-Wallace tackled Connor Kinzelmann one yard deep in the end zone for the safety giving the Saints a 9-0 lead.
The ensuing free kick was pushed back five yards after the first attempt sailed out of bounds and Lauricella returned the kick 28 yards setting up St. Lawrence on the Union 32 yard line.
Richardson completed passes to Vincenzo Ferraro and Cormac Garvey before Payne bounced off a couple tacklers and carried the ball in from nine yards out for the early 16-0 St. Lawrence lead.
Union answered with a 13-play scoring drive that started at the end of the first quarter and carried over to the start of the second quarter as the Dutchmen trimmed the lead to 16-7.
The teams traded punts for the remainder of the first half.
In the third quarter, St. Lawrence continued to win the battle for field position as Lauricella had one punt downed at the four yard line and another at the 20 yard line but neither team was able to score.
The Saints had possession at the end of the third quarter as Richardson engineered a time consuming 11-play drive that took 7:23 off the clock and ended with the Hebert short field goal to give the Saints a 19-7 lead.
The Dutchmen answered with a scoring drive to trim the lead to 19-14 with 4:20 left to play.
Union attempted the on-sides kick on the ensuing kickoff but the failed attempt led to the St. Lawrence touchdown that put the game out of reach with 1:03 left to play.
Richardson finished 17-for-30 for 153 yards passing and Payne led all rushers with his 124 yards. Ferraro had five catches for 50 yards. Brown-Wallace led the St. Lawrence defense with eight tackles including 2 ½ for loss. Alec Dietsch and Scott Arens had seven stops each while Skyler Williamson and Ryan Byrne recorded six tackles each.