TROY, N.Y. – The Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) football team scored the final 16 points of the game to turn a 10-7 deficit into a 19-7 victory over Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) to claim a Liberty League victory and the Transit Trophy at a rain-soaked East Campus Stadium.
It was a defensive battle throughout as neither team eclipsed 300 total yards of offense in the game. The only scoring of the first half was a 29-yard field goal by WPI’s Blaine Bursey at 11:24 of the second quarter. The visiting Engineers had 143 total yards (101 passing) on 46 plays in the first 30 minutes, while Rensselaer managed 127 yards (114 rushing) on 22 plays. Both teams turned the ball over twice in the first half.
Following punts by both teams to open the second half, RPI got on the scoreboard with an eight-play, 70-yard drive that culminated with a six-yard run on a jet sweep by junior Nick Esposito at the 7:44 mark. Highlights of the drive included a 15-yard run by sophomore Maliek Kelly and a 39-yard run by freshman quarterback Tommy Avery, who was making his first career start.
The RPI defense forced a punt on the next set of downs, but WPI got the ball back immediately when Brian Murtagh, the leading tackler in the Liberty League, sacked Avery and forced a fumble on first down. WPI got a 23-yard completion from Dan Eckler to Brandon Eccher and eventually worked the ball to the one-yard line, where freshman running back Sean McAllen leaped over a pile to give the Engineers a 10-7 lead.
The score remained that way until midway through the fourth quarter when WPI got two points thanks to a Dereck Pacheco tackle in the end zone. RPI gained its possession after an impressive defensive stand on a first-and-goal from the two-yard line. Rensselaer’s first play was a run to the line of scrimmage before Pacheco stopped running back Ethan Wells in the end zone for a safety.
WPI took advantage of its ensuing possession, going 57 yards on seven plays with Connor Field rushing around the right end from 11 yards out and diving into the end zone with 2:37 to play in the fourth quarter.
Eckler completed 13 of 32 passes for 158 yards with an interception, while rushing for 47 yards on 14 carries. McAllen led WPI on the ground with 54 yards and Eccher was the top receiver with 41 yards on three receptions. Murtagh (4 solo), Pacheco (3 solo) and Sam Malafronte, who had five unassisted stops, each had 10 tackles. Pacheco added 2.5 tackles for lost yards (4).
Senior Alexander Greenidge led all players with 15 tackles, including five unassisted, 1.5 for lost yards (2) and a fumble recovery. Brandt Beck added nine stops with five unassisted and 0.5 for lost yards (1). Avery led all rushers with 97 yards on the ground (15 carries) with another 41 (4 of 14) in the air. He was intercepted once. Wells finished with 74 yards on seven carries.
RPI, which is now 4-4 overall and 2-3 in the Liberty League, is idle next week. WPI, which improves to 5-2 and 2-2, hosts Hobart College next Saturday at noon.