ROCHESTER, NY – The Alfred University football (6-4, Empire 8 4-3) class of 2018 became the winningest class in program history (34 wins) on Saturday defeating the University of Rochester 41-13 on the road in the 2018 regular season finale. Sophomore Nas Smith (Auburn, NY/Auburn) rushed for the fourth-most yards in a single-game in program history, leading the Saxons with 269 yards and three touchdowns.
The AU seniors that walked onto campus in 2015 will leave Alfred, NY as the class with the most wins in program history with 34 wins over four years, winning eight games in 2015, 12 in 2016, eight in 2017 and six in 2018. The 2018 class hopes to extend that record next week if the Saxons earn a bid to an Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) bowl. AU is 10-2 in such bowl games dating back to 1986.
Smith, who entered the game against UR with 914 rush yards cruised well-beyond 1,000 yards rushing for the first time in his career, finishing the day with 269 yards and three touchdowns on the ground – marking the first time Smith has rushed for more than 200 yards in his career and the third time he has scored three rushing touchdowns in a single game in 2018.
Smith now ranks second all-time with 15 rushing touchdowns in a season at AU, tying Max Freeman '96 and trailing only Tyler Johnson '17 who scored 22 rushing touchdowns in 2016. He is narrowly outside the top-ten in AU history for rushing yards in a season. He currently stands at 1,163 rush yards in 2018 while Jesse Raynor '03 holds the tenth spot with 1,184 yards during the 2003 season. In regard to the Empire 8, Smith in one of two running backs to break 1,000 yards rushing 2018 and sits atop the rankings among his counterparts.
Overall, the Saxons finished the day with 465 yards rushing and 47 yards passing. In addition to Smith, junior Aaron Griffin (Queens, NY/Holy Cross) rushed for 94 yards and two touchdowns while four other AU ball carriers rushed the ball. First-year Robert Smith Jr. (Rochester, NY/Greece Arcadia) found the end zone on the ground for the second time in his career.
Griffin opened the scoring for the Saxons in the opening quarter, capping off a 60-yard eight-play drive that spanned over four minutes. He took the ball in from 10 yards out with only 5:46 burned off the game clock. Almost exactly one quarter later, Smith was rushing into the end zone for his first touchdown of the day from four yards out. The Saxons drove 95 yards on 15 plays en route to taking the 14-0 lead. AU maintained that margin into the halftime break.
AU rattled off a flurry of scores in the third quarter, putting 27 more points on the board. The first touchdown occurred 16 seconds into the second half when Smith scored a 69-yard touchdown – the second-longest rushing touchdown of his career (scored a 72-yarder vs. UR in 2017), putting AU up 21-0. Less than four minutes later, Griffin was increasing AU's lead, 28-0, finding paydirt from 13 yards out. Not to be outdone, Smith rattled off yet another 69-yard touchdown, solidifying the Saxon-lead, 34-0. Finally, Smith Jr. chalked up a six-yard rushing touchdown just before the end of the third quarter, bringing the game to 41-0.
The YellowJackets finally scored in the fourth quarter, hitting for 13 unanswered points to close out the game. Quarterback Matt Gallagher and Dan Diaz met up on a 14-yard pass for the first score while Gallagher hit Noah Shinaman from 29 yards out on the second touchdown.
Junior Leo Pamphile (Spring Valley, NY/Spring Valley) shored up the AU defense, leading the team with nine tackles. Senior Cole Reed (Gratz, PA/Upper Dauphin Area) had eight tackles including 1.5 tackles for a loss. He closed out the regular season atop the Empire 8 with 117 total tackles – 13 more than any other player in the conference. Sophomore Sean Cameron (Brooklyn, NY/Midwood) had a career-high two sacks in the game.
Senior Eric Graham (Cheektowaga, NY/Maryvale) had AU's lone interception in the game – his second interception of the season, returning the ball 31 yards and setting the Saxons up for the final score of the day.
"I am really happy to send the seniors off with a big win on the road," Head Coach Bob Rankl said. "Today they became Alfred University all-time winningest class over a four-year span. They have a lot to be proud of."
The Saxons will wait to hear word from the ECAC on Monday. AU has made a postseason appearance in 13 of the last 14 years.