RPI football advances past SUNY Cortland in NCAAs 21-14

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Cortland, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Senior Dylan Burnett rushed for 155 yards and a 42-yard touchdown, the defense forced three turnovers and the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) football team defeated SUNY Cortland 21-14 in an NCAA Playoffs Second Round game. With the victory, the No. 18/20 Engineers improve to 11-1 and tie the school record for wins in a season. They advance to the quarterfinals next Saturday at No. 1/1 North Central in Naperville, Illinois.

Burnett, who set a career-best for rushing yards in a game, carried the ball 32 times just one week after carrying the ball 27 times for a then-personal-best 124 yards in the NCAA First Round. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry on Saturday and was joined by quarterback George Marinopoulos as the offensive catalysts. A graduate student, Marinopoulos completed 15 of 18 passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns. Sterling Walker-Sutton caught an eight-yard score in the first quarter to tie the game at 7-7 and Peter Lombardi had a four-yard score in the third quarter that put the visitors ahead 14-7.

Freshman defensive lineman Nate Sicard led the defense with nine tackles, including four unassisted and two sacks for a loss of nine yards. Linebackers Joe Deptula and Austin Charles both had six stops with Deptula also recovering a fumble. Cole McGrath (5 tackles) also had a fumble recovery and Francis Perry (2 tackles) had an interception to end Cortland’s final series after the Red Dragons recovered an on-side kick with 1:40 to play in the fourth quarter.

After forcing a punt on Rensselaer’s first drive, No. 12/13 Cortland drove down the field to take a 7-0 lead. Quarterback Brees Segala finished an eight-play, 46-yard series with a three-yard run up the middle with 9:41 to play in the first quarter. RPI answered on its ensuing drive, going 75 yards on nine plays with Marinopoulos connecting with Walker-Sutton, a junior who pushed his way across the goal line.

The first half ended tied at 7-7 and the game was as even as the score indicated at that point. RPI had 10 first downs, compared to nine for Cortland. The Engineers had 67 rushing yards, while the Red Dragons had 71. Cortland had a 73-47 edge in passing, in part due to a 30-yard completion that put the Red Dragons in position for a 39-yard field goal attempt that was missed left at the end of the second quarter. RPI had a 40-yard field goal attempt that also went wide left on the previous series.

Lombardi’s score with 34 seconds left in the third quarter finished another long drive (8 plays, 71 yards) and gave Rensselaer a 14-7 lead. The score remained that way until Burnett busted through the line for a 42-yard run up the middle on a 3rd-and-7 play.

Cortland, which dropped to 11-1, answered by going 78 yards on six plays, culminated with a 29-yard pass from Segala to JJ Laap in the back left corner of the end zone. The scoring strike pulled it to within 21-14 with under two minutes to play. The Red Dragons recovered the onside kick, but Perry ended the series with an interception at the 25-yard line on the first play. The interception was his team-leading fifth of the season.

Burnett ran twice for a total of 12 yards and the Engineers kneeled on the next two plays to run down the clock.

Segala, a senior, was 23 of 30 for 245 yards with Derek Cruz catching 10 passes for 98 yards. Jaden Alfanostjohn had five catches for 34 yards, along with 66 rushing yards on 15 carries. Paul Imperiale had a dozen tackles nd Justin Wheeler made 11. They both had four solos.

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