Engineers survive to clinch league title
Defense makes late stand after getting torched by freshman
That gust of wind coming out of Troy on Saturday afternoon may have been a collective exhale by the RPI football team.
The Engineers took care of business against St. Lawrence, winning 27-20 at East Campus Stadium to clinch their second consecutive Liberty League championship and NCA A Division III playoff berth.
Ranked 14th in the national coaches’ poll, its highest spot in 11 years, RPI (8-0, 4-0) had to endure 75 pass attempts and 437 passing yards by St. Lawrence (27, 1-3), which set school records in both categories.
“We can take a breath, maybe for about 12 hours,” Engineers coach Ralph Isernia said, “but our guys know that we’ve got a big game coming up this upcoming week for the Shoes.”
RPI closes the regular season next Saturday at home against Union in the 116th meeting of the Dutchman Shoes rivalry.
Isernia usually gives his team a half-day to savor a victory, but the players already were talking Shoes during their postgame celebration Saturday.
“We got right on to it,” linebacker and co-captain Jack Hoggard said. “We were thinking about it as the final whistle blew. That’s all we could think about. We’re ready for the Shoes.”
On a day when sophomore quarterback George Marinopoulos averaged 12.9 yards per pass attempt and threw for a careerhigh 348 yards, RPI needed a late defensive stand to survive.
St. Lawrence freshman Tyler Grochot completed 36 of 71 passes for 412 yards and three touchdowns. Backup Aaron Ruthman, a sophomore, played two series, going 2-for-5 for 25 yards. The Saints rushed only 14 times, including four sacks.
“That’s what they want to do,” Isernia said. “They’ve got two quarterbacks that can sling it. They’re trying to get the ball to Ferraro (Anthony, 16 receptions for 182 yards). It’s no secret that they’re probably going to break their passing records for the season with completions and attemptsandyardage.”
Grochot’s 20-yard touchdown strike to Sean Mccormack cut RPI’S lead to seven — St. Lawrence inexplicably tried a twopoint conversion, which failed — but the Saints couldn’t capitalize on back-to-back RPI turnovers late in the third quarter.
RPI’S defense clamped down in the fourth quarter, getting sacks from linemen Antonio Rogliano and Andrew Banaitis. St. Lawrence hurt itself with two drive-killing unsportsmanlikeconduct penalties.
“We tried to dial up a few things defensively to maybe give the quarterback a few different looks, maybe confuse him a little,” Isernia said. “There were a couple of plays where we had hands on the football, we had chances at interceptions.”
Offensively, the Engineers had three plays of 63 yards or longer, each advancing the ball inside the 10-yard line, but settled for field goals on two of those drives.
“We knew that their red-zone defense was really stout,” Isernia said. “They clamp down once you get into that part of the field.”
Despite getting outgained (528-456) for the sixth time this season, RPI kept its record unblemished en route to its ninth Liberty League title.
“That was a goal at the beginning of the season,” offensive lineman and co-captain Aaron Castillo said. “That’s a nice way to accomplish it, especially before a big game like Union.”
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