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TROY, N.Y. – Senior Peter Nilson kicked a 37-yard field goal with six seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to give RPI a 27-24 victory over No. 19 Alfred in a non-league game on Reunion & Homecoming Weekend at East Campus Stadium. With the win the Engineers improve to 3-2 overall, while the Saxons, who fought back from a 24-0 first quarter deficit, fall to 5-1.
After building the big lead, the Engineers needed Nilson (Appleton, WI/Kimberly) to come through at the end for the victory. He made the kick despite three straight Alfred timeouts with 10 seconds remaining trying to ice him.
The game-winning drive started at the Rensselaer 49-yard line with 42 seconds remaining. The key play of the series came when sophomore quarterback Mike Hermann (Hardeeville, SC/Avon Old Farms) connected with senior wide receiver Pat McCarthy (Stafford, NH/Spaulding) on a 25-yard completion to the Alfred 20-yard line. Following an RPI spike on first down and an incompletion on second, the Saxons called three consecutive timeouts before Nilson's low kick with the wind cleared the uprights.
Alfred lateraled the ensuing kickoff down to the Rensselaer 20-yard line but was stopped. An illegal forward pass penalty on the play was declined and the game ended.
Rensselaer broke out on top early as it scored on each of its first four possessions. The Engineers were aided by excellent field possession, thanks to a pair of turnovers and two short punts.
On the first possession, which came off a fumble, Nilson was successful on a 21-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead. Following a short punt, the Engineers went 49 yards in four plays, capped by a 7-yard pass from Hermann to classmate Austin Caswell (Round Rock, TX/Stony Point), a wide receiver. The two connected a second time, this time for a 5-yard touchdown, with 3:47 remaining in the opening frame.
Following a bad snap that was recovered by RPI's Darryl Brown (Hollis, NY/Bayside) at the Alfred 20-yard line, Hermann and Caswell finished the drive with an 8-yard scoring strike with 28 seconds remaining in the quarter for the 24-point advantage. While the Engineers had solid field possession throughout the first quarter, Alfred did not due to three touchbacks off the foot of RPI's Caswell.
The Saxons cut their deficit to 24-7 late in the second quarter when freshman tailback Austin Dwyer (Arkport, NY/Hornell) scored on an 8-yard run. Dwyer's touchdown, his fourth of the season, completed a 9-play, 67-yard drive that started with a Roland O'Brien (Hoosick Falls, NY/Hoosick Falls) interception.
A 33-yard field goal by Eric Rockwood (Allegany, NY/Allegany-Limestone) pulled the visitors to within 24-10 midway through the third quarter. Following a Rensselaer punt, the Saxons marched down the field, going 77 yards in four plays, culminated by a 15-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Tom Secky (Bemus Point, NY/Maple Grove) to senior wide receiver Ryan Thon (Victor, NY/Victor) in the front left corner of the end zone.
Alfred immediately forced another punt and again went down the field, this time 45 yards on nine plays. The tying touchdown came when Secky found Thon on an 8-yard slant in the end zone with just eight seconds left in the third quarter. Rockwood's point after knotted the game at 24-24.
Hermann finished with 182 yards (17 for 30) and three touchdown passes, while also running for a team-best 51 yards. McCarthy had four catches for 60 yards and Steven Burpoe (Saranack Lake, NY/Saranac Lake) added four receptions for 60 yards. Caswell had three catches – all touchdowns – for 20 yards.
Defensively for the Engineers, senior linebacker Jeff McCormack (Schodack, NY/Columbia) made a game-high 18 tackles, including 10 unassisted and 1.0 for lost yards (2). He also broke up two passes.
For Alfred, sophomore defensive back Reggie Pressley (Rochester, NY/Gates-Chili) had a team-best eight tackles (3 solos) with a fumble recovery. Junior linebacker Nick Clark (Canisteo, NY/Canisteo-Greenwood) had seven tackles, including six unassisted and two for lost yards (5).
Dwyer led the Saxons offense with 160 yards rushing and a touchdown on 26 attempts. Secky completed 28 of 45 passes for 246 yards and two touchdowns with Josh Phillips (Syracuse, NY/West Genesee) being his favorite target. He had a game-high nine receptions for 126 yards. Thon finished with seven catches for 67 yards.
Rensselaer returns to action next Saturday when it travels to Liberty League foe St. Lawrence in a battle for first place beginning at 1pm. Alfred is also in a first place showdown next week when it hosts Empire 8 opponent #17 St. John Fisher. That game also begins at 1pm.