Engi­neers sur­vive to clinch league ti­tle

De­fense makes late stand after get­ting torched by fresh­man

Albany Times Union - Sunday - - COLLEGES - By Pete Dougherty Troy ▶

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.”

pdougherty@time­sunion.com 518-454-5416 @Pete_­dougherty

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