Somebody put too much polish on those slippery shoes.
In a game filled with turnovers on both sides, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute capitalized the best on Union’s mistakes, returning one interception for a touchdown and using another pick to set up another score, as the Engineers won back the Dutchman Shoes Trophy, 31-28, Saturday on Frank Bailey Field.
Each team committed four turnovers in the hard-hitting matchup between local archrivals playing for the 111th time in New York’s oldest collegiate rivalry. Union still leads the all-time series, 81-26-4, but RPI has won nine of the last 17 meetings.
After Union grabbed a 28-24 advantage with 7:05 left on a 27-yard TD strike from junior quarterback Connor Eck to Andrew Baker, the Engineers stormed right back, driving 82 yards on nine plays for the winning score.
RPI senior quarterback Brendan McGlynn, who missed much of the season because of an injury, hooked up with senior tight end and captain Joe Cozzolino for a 33-yard pass before gaining nine yards on a keeper. Following three straight runs by sophomore running back Nick Scholz, McGlynn busted up the middle for a two-yard run, and Andrew Franks tacked on the PAT with 2:58 remaining to put the
Engineers on top for good.
Union had plenty of time to counter, but the Dutchmen fumbled on their next play from scrimmage. Phillip Lanieri III picked up the loose ball, and the Engineers ran out the clock.
“I knew it was crucial to get that touchdown,” said McGlynn of the game-winning drive. “We were very confident with our offense. It feels overwhelming to get the Shoes back, especially after the year I had. I didn’t even know if I would get a chance to come back and play for the Shoes. I feel blessed.”
First-year head coach Ralph Isernia was coaching his first “Shoes” game, and it was everything he heard it would be.
“Every day, since I came here, that’s all I heard about was the Shoes,” he said. “Our guys had an incredible week of practice, and I feel so happy for everybody on this team, especially the seniors. We were grinding all the way. We made mistakes, but I think we capitalized on their mistakes, as well. I couldn’t be more proud of our guys.”
Isernia felt that all the turnovers were caused by the physical nature of the game, and the intensity surrounding it.
“It was an emotional game,” he said. “Guys were fighting for those extra yards. That was two teams fighting their guts out. They [the Dutchmen] were fighting just like our guys, and both teams were taking a punch and bouncing right back.”
Although RPI (5-5) committed the first turnover on its opening drive, when McGlynn was intercepted by Andrew Luzzi, the Dutchmen couldn’t get their offense in gear. Union punted the ball away, and RPI went 54 yards in six plays, with Andrew Armato breaking free for a 24-yard TD run.
But the Dutchmen bounced right back, with senior quarterback Nick Becker completing three passes for 58 yards to set up T.J. Franzese’s one-yard scoring plunge.
RPI went ahead, 10-7, when Franks kicked a 26-yard field goal with 40 seconds left in the first quarter.
Union took a 14-10 lead when the Dutchmen drove to the RPI 10-yard line and lined up for a field goal. The snap was botched, and sophomore wideout/holder Joseph Vito picked up the loose ball, scrambled to his right and found Joe Flannery for a 10-yard TD pass.
Nick Borkowski returned a Becker interception for a 40-yard touchdown with 9:21 left in the half to give the Engineers a 17-14 edge, and then Becker was intercepted again on Union’s next possession by Colby Tragni. Six plays later, McGlynn scored on a one-yard keeper to push RPI in front, 24-14.
Union cut its deficit to 24-21 on another botched field-goal snap. This time, Vito ran in from the one with 7:43 left in the third period.
“Both of those plays were botched snaps, and I had to take off. It worked out for us. We were lucky,” said Vito.
Union took its final lead at 28-24 thanks to a gutsy call. On a fourth-and-one from the RPI 40, Eck found Kyle Kalanta for a 13-yard pass to keep the drive going. Eck then connected with Baker on a post route to put Union ahead, 28-24.
“You’ve got to give a lot of credit to the guys from RPI,” said Union head coach John Audino, whose Dutchmen finish up at 3-7. “They were real physical up front on both sides of the ball. We didn’t execute the things we need to do offensively, and those two picks in the first half really hurt, especially the one they ran back. Our kids played hard, and it was a good game that went down to the wire.”
RPI 10 14 0 7 — 31
Union 7 7 7 7 — 28
RPI — Armato 24 run (Franks kick).
U — Franzese 1 run (Pope kick).
RPI — FG Franks 26.
U — Flannerty 10 pass from Vito (Pope kick).
RPI — Borkowski 40 interception return (Franks kick).
RPI — McGlynn 1 run (Franks kick).
U — Vito 1 run (Pope kick).
U — Baker 27 pass from Eck (Pope kick).
RPI — McGlynn 2 run (Franks kick).
First downs 31 28
Rushes-yards 54-185 39-97
Passing yards 137 249
Att-Comp-Int 15-10-1 35-20-3
Return yards 44 0
Fumbles-lost 4-3 3-1
Punts-avg. 2-21.5 3-31.7
Penalties-yards 1-15 7-67