September 26, 2013

History lesson: Engineering rivalries

More news about: MIT | Rose-Hulman | RPI | WPI
WPI is playing for the Transit Trophy this week, and it doesn't involve trains or cars.
WPI athletics photo

Week 4 is perhaps the most odd Saturday on the D-III schedule. It's the last week before almost every conference (except the four-teamers) shifts into league play, making it the most common bye week. There are only 96 games on the schedule, and 186 of 244 teams in action, with 58 sitting this weekend out.

It's also the only weekend in September without a built-in, hardcore D-III rivalry to appreciate. Week 1 brought us a three-point, won-in-the-final-two-minutes Guilford-Greensboro Gate City Soup Bowl and the Millsaps-Mississippi College Backyard Brawl. The second week brought us rivalries old and new: Coe and Cornell played for the 123rd time since 1891, while SUNY-Maritime and Mass. Maritime met for the sixth time in the Chowder Bowl. Week 3 begat a Johnnie-Tommie (or is it Tommie-Johnnie) game for the ages.

ATN, however, digs deep into the D-III files. And there I find a Week 4 rivalry game worthy of mention.

RPI and WPI -- and because of those handy initialisms, after almost 15 years, I still struggle to spell "Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute" -- meet on Saturday for the Transit Trophy. If you knew that a transit is used to measure angles, and the trophy has nothing to do with subways or city buses, congratulations. You might be an engineer. (As a son of an engineer, I probably deserve to be swatted over the head with a rolled-up newspaper for not knowing that.)

Anyway, the trophy is a creation of the two athletic departments. RPI won every year from 1997 through 2009, so the rivalry never quite got on our national radar, but with WPI winning in 2010 and 11, and RPI stealing the trophy back in 2012, we began to take note. Although the trophy hasn't been around the entire time, this season's meeting is actually No. 106 in the rivalry, so it's in a special class.

So is everybody at WPI and RPI, come to think of it. And that's why when those engineers play these engineers, all the engineers cheer. (Where's that rolled-up newspaper, so I can hit myself?)

There are four teams called the Engineers in D-III -- MIT and RHIT are the others, so basically all the institutes -- of technology, or the polytechnic institutes -- go by it. Would be cool if Rose-Hulman, Massachusetts, Worcester Polytech and R-E-N-S-S, oh, RPI, could all get together and play a round robin for a giant T-square or something. Milwaukee School of Engineering doesn't have football, but they have hosted a basketball tournament with many of these schools.

Since we've already made note of RPI and their 3-0 start, let's look at 1-2 WPI: The last-second loss to crosstown Worcester State was a bummer for the Engineers, and instead of bouncing back, Norwich scored the first 17 points in a 31-14 win. But WPI has outscored its competition 76-74 this season, with 11 touchdowns to 10, so maybe they're due to even off their record too. (They beat Curry, 48-28, in the opener).

Off the beaten path

Even though we've spun forward to Week 4, a couple overdue hat-tips for games that were off the beaten path in Week 3:

• La Verne, which last had a winning season in 2005 and last made the playoffs in 1994, won its very-late season opener, 25-20, at Whitworth. Since it's no small trip from the Los Angeles area to Spokane, or no small feat for a lower-half SCIAC team to win in NWC territory, the Leopards deserve their due.

The NWC won its other three matchups with the SCIAC pretty convincingly in Week 3 (Linfield beat Cal Lutheran, 52-14, in a matchup of conference favorites, Pacific Lutheran beat Redlands, 35-14, in a clash of expected No. 2s and Puget Sound, which hadn't won since Oct. of 2010, scored twice in one minute of fourth-quarter play to salt away a win at Whittier.

LaVerne, on the other hand, made a 17-0 halftime lead stand up while holding the Pirates to 61 rushing yards in avenging a 45-20 loss from 2012.

• Maryville's 42-30 win against Sewanee is just a blur. Or a fog, rather. (Hit me with that newspaper again please. Thanks). Our friend Marcus Fitzsimmons (and his giant headshot) at The Maryville Daily Times has the tale. If, like most of us, you weren't there, no worries. It wasn't a game you had to see to believe.

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Ryan Tipps

Ryan is's Senior Editor and began as National Columnist in fall 2014. He was the Around the Mid-Atlantic Columnist from 2007 to 2011, has worked on the preseason Kickoff publication since 2006 and has covered the Stagg Bowl in Salem for more than a decade. Ryan, a Wabash graduate, worked in newspapers as a writer and editor for 15 years before his current full-time job as editor of a magazine in Virginia.

2001-2013 columnist: Keith McMillan.

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