Comeback Falls Short as Football Drops 25-14 Decision to No. 24 RPI in Transit Trophy Game

Nick Ostrowski

Troy, NY --- Sophomore wide receiver Nick Smith (Wayne, NJ) caught the first two passes of his career - both touchdowns - and the RPI defense intercepted four passes, including one returned for a touchdown, as the No. 24 Engineers defeated WPI, 25-14, in the Transit Trophy Game at East Campus Stadium. RPI improves to 2-0 on the season and 26-12-1 in Transit Trophy games, including each of the last two seasons and four of the last five. WPI is now 1-1 in 2018.

Playing just the second game of his career, Smith made his first reception with 7:29 left in the first quarter when he came down with a George Marinopolous (Slingerlands, NY) throw in the end zone, landing on his back just inside the boundary, to give Rensselaer a 13-0 lead. He increased the advantage to 19-0 when he made another leaping catch, this one on the right side of the opposite end zone, with 4:25 left in the second quarter.

WPI answered on its next possession with an 8-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a Sean McAllen (Prospect, CT) one-yard touchdown. The big play of the series was a 46-yard completion from Julian Nyland (Melrose, MA) to Nic Rossi (Howell, NY) that set up the Engineers on the six yard line. 

McAllen, a junior running back, struck again in the third quarter to get the visitors to within one score, 19-14, with a two yard run at 9:14 of the third quarter. Senior defensive back Brian Mahan (Ashland, MA) set up the possession with an interception that he returned seven yards to the RPI 10 yard line. 

Following two punts by Rensselaer and one by WPI, the visitors gained possession on their own 18 yard line and eventually moved it to the 25, but the play was drive ended when RPI's John Sadak (Glastonbury, CT) intercepted a Nyland throw and returned it 28 yards for a touchdown and a 25-14 lead with 1:24 left in the third quarter. It was the second straight game the Engineers had an interception return for a touchdown following DJ Stefonsky's (Gainesville, VA) 89-yard effort in a Week 1 win at Allegheny.

On WPI's second series after Sadak's pick-six, senior Luke Watanabe (Issaquah, WA) gave RPI its third INT when he pulled down a Nyland throw in the end zone to preserve the 11-point advantage. Junior Andres Guisasola (Miami, FL) ended WPI's final drive with an interception on a third-and-long play with 51 seconds left in the contest and the Engineers ran out the clock.

In addition to its four interceptions, the Engineers' defense added a pair of sacks (8 yards lost) and six tackles-for-lost yards (16). Jack Fallon (Yarmouthport, MA) had a team-high 10 tackles, including five unassisted, 0.5 for lost yards (1) and a pass breakup. Jack Hoggard (Acton, MA) had eight with a pass breakup and Watanabe finished with six, along with his interception, a fumble recovery and two pass breakups.

On the other side of the ball, Marinopolous connected on 22 of 41 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns with an interception. Conor Davies (Lanoka Harbor, NJ), who had a 4-yard touchdown reception, was his favorite target with six catches for 58 yards. Nick Cella (Holmdel, NJ) was the team's top running back with 70 yards on 24 carries.

Nyland led WPI in rushing with 65 yards on 13 carries, while McAllen had 31 yards on 13 attempts. As a team the Engineers managed just 96 yards on 28 attempts. Under center, Nyland was 19 of 42 for 234 yards with Rossi catching seven passes for a game-high 110 yards.

WPI's Nick Ostrowski (Charlton, MA) led all tacklers with 12 tackles (3 solo), while Collin Saunders (Westwood, MA) made seven solos stops with two assisted tackles and Luca Cerasani (Abington, MA) and Mike McGoff (Abington, MA) teamed up to amass 4 sacks. The visitors actually enjoyed a 330-283 edge in total yards but committed five of the game's seven turnovers and commited 11 penalties for 124 yards. The time of possession was nearly even with RPI holding a slight advantage 30:13 to 29:47.

WPI is on the road for the third straight game next Saturday when it plays at Becker at 3pm. RPI heads to Utica for a non-league contest that begins at noon.

Release Courtesy RPI Sports Information