UTICA – Big plays on defense and special teams helped nationally ranked No. 21 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute escape with a 23-20, triple-overtime victory over Utica College in Saturday afternoon’s nonconference football game at Charles A. Gaetano Stadium.
D.J. Stefonsky’s second end zone interception of the day ended the game, RPI teammate Sean Egan returned another pick for a touchdown, and the Engineers (3-0) forced overtime when Magnus Wamble blocked a 32-yard field goal attempt by Utica’s Dan Tette as time expired.
Both teams missed field goal attempts in the first OT – a 42-yarder by RPI’s Sanjay Krishnan fell short and Tette’s 26-yard was wide right – and UC took a 20-17 lead in the second OT on Tette’s 37-yard field goal.
Krishnan drew RPI even again with a 21-yard field goal, and after missing a 40-yard attempt in the third overtime, a roughing-the-kicker penalty gave him another chance and his 35-yard boot put the Engineers on top 23-20.
Moments later, UC freshman quarterback Logan Wilcox’s 3rd-and-6 pass from the RPI 21 was intercepted in the end zone by Stefonsky.
Wilcox, the former Thomas R. Proctor High School star who the previous week threw for 259 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-21 win over Catholic University in his first collegiate start, completed 24-of-55 passes for 213 yards and one touchdown.
The Pioneers (2-1) were led by senior running back Malcolm Stowe, who rushed for 158 yards on 27 carries and became the sixth player in program history to rush for over 1,000 yards in his career. UC junior Peyton Miller led the receiving corps with nine catches for 89 yards.
RPI put together a 14-play drive on its first possession, but Utica forced three straight incompletions from the UC 7 and the Engineers settled for a 24-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead.
Thanks to Stowe’s 53-yard run, Utica had a chance to tie or go ahead, but after reaching RPI’s 22 the drive stalled and Tette’s 39-yard field goal try was wide.
Wilcox, however, led the Pioneers on a 12-play, 80-yard drive that ended when his 3rd-and-5 pass was caught by Imani Vincent for an 8-yard touchdown with 31 seconds left in the first half, so UC took a 7-3 lead into the intermission.
The Pioneers stretched their lead to 10-3 when a 45-yard punt return by Donovan Brunson led to a 33-yard field goal by Tette with 2:19 left in the third quarter.
Egan’s 22-yard interception return for a touchdown tied it at 10-10 early in the fourth quarter, but UC regained the lead once more when Shane Walpole’s sack of RPI quarterback George Marinopoulos forced a fumble that Xyier Woodard recovered in the end zone with 6:33 left in regulation.
Marinopoulos, who was 25-for-45 for 198 yards, returned to complete five passes during an 84-yard drive that ended with a 21-yard touchdown run by Dylan Burnett that tied the game at 17-17 with 3:35 remaining.
UC had one more chance in regulation, when Herkimer’s Zach Steele returned a punt 24 yards and a Wilcox-to-Miller completed gave the Pioneers a first down at the RPI 15. After an incompletion, RPI called a timeout with four seconds left and Tette’s field goal attempt that could have won it for the Pioneers was blocked.
Kwasi Addo and Antonio Scala led the UC defense with 12 tackles each. Anthony Beaubrun had 10 tackles and an interception for the Pioneers, who next Saturday host Cortland State (2-0) in their Empire 8 Conference opener at 1:30 p.m.
Tufts 29, Hamilton 2
Tufts University's defense intercepted Hamilton College quarter Kenny Gray three times, sacked him six times and held the Continentals to 163 total yards in a New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) opener at Steuben Field in Clinton.
Tufts quarterback Ryan McDonald rushed for 98 yards on 15 carries, including touchdown runs of 18, 8, 32 and 9 yards, and the Jumbos' three interceptions were picked off at their own 7, 10 and 5.
McDonald was sacked by Alex Ganter in the end zone for Hamilton's only points, and the Continentals were within 15-2 in the third quarter before a drive stalled at the Tufts 28.
Gray completed 18-of-42 passes for 158 yards for the Continentals. Will Budington caught six of those passes for 117 yards and Joe Schmidt had nine receptions for 29 yards. Ganter and Sam Bowen each had seven tackles, including six solo stops, for Hamilton.
The Continentals travel to Massachusetts next Saturday to meet Amherst College at 1 p.m.