St. Lawrence University junior quarterback Mike Lefflbine threw for three touchdowns and his team's defense was solid again, as the Saints football team knocked off Rensselaer by the score of 20-13 at Leckonby Stadium on Saturday afternoon during "Homecoming Weekend."
The Saints improve to 5-1 on the season overall and 3-0 in conference, sitting atop the Liberty League standings alongside nationally-ranked No. 7 Hobart. Rensselaer falls to 0-2 in the conference and 3-2 overall.
"Rensselaer is a very well-coached and tough football team, but we were able to make enough plays again in the second half to find a way to win," said St. Lawrence head coach Mark Raymond. "We're looking forward to a getting a little bit of rest, getting some guys healthy and to squaring off with Springfield in two weeks."
St. Lawrence put together an efficient effort on Saturday, as the team never trailed while finishing with a 304-260 advantage in total offense. Lefflbine closed with 161 yards and three scores on 18-of-29 passing, including five completions to senior Mike Tateosian for 104 yards and a touchdown. Rensselaer's Andrew Armato led all players with 94 yards on 12 carries, while quarterback Jeff Avery was 10-of-24 passing for 99 yards and was sacked four times.
Defensively, the Saints continued their outstanding play, allowing two or fewer touchdowns for the fifth time this season, all of which were victories. Evan Lapice had a game-high 10 tackles and a sack, while captain Shane Hart added nine tackles and a fumble recovery. Rensselaer's defensive unit was anchored by Brandon Cook's eight-tackle outing.
St. Lawrence took a 6-0 lead on its second drive of the game, as the offense went 56 yards in five plays to take the early advantage. The Saints used some trickery to get into the red zone, as running back Jake Gnieser connected with Tateosian for a 45-yard gain, setting up Lefflbine's 1-yard touchdown pass to rookie Mitch Gallagher. Collin Shapiro's extra point missed.
Andrew Franks would get the Engineers on the scoreboard with an impressive 42-yard field goal with 2:48 left in the first quarter, but a turnover early in the second would haunt RPI. Avery lost a fumble at his own 18, and with Hart recovering for St. Lawrence, he raced the ball to the 4-yard line. Lefflbine would find Gallagher again over the middle of the field for the touchdown, and with Shapiro's kick connecting, a 13-3 lead.
Rensselaer stayed within striking distance before halftime thanks to a St. Lawrence turnover inside its own 20. The Engineers went to the ground game, as Armato got the ball to the 3-yard line before Nick Schlatz took it in for the touchdown. Franks added the extra point, and after a 3-and-out by the Saints, would tie the game in the final minute of the half on a 28-yard field goal to send the game to intermission tied at 13-13.
The key play of the game came after back-to-back fumbles by the two teams. Lefflbine fumbled on 4th down at the RPI 25, but Schlatz would return the favor on the next play, as the Saints set up at the RPI 29. Lefflbine would take the ensuing snap and deliver a perfectly-thrown ball to Tateosian in stride, as he took it to the end zone for the touchdown. Shapiro added the extra point for a 20-13 lead.
That sequence would be enough for the Saints' defense, as they held RPI to a missed field goal try and back-to-back punts. The Saints were able to wipe 6:19 off the game clock in the fourth quarter thanks to a 12-play, 50-yard drive, but Shapiro's 22-yard field goal that would've put the game out of reach missed, giving the Engineers hope. Though the visitors drove the ball from their 20 to the Saints' 34, Schlatz was taken down on 4th-and-4 a yard shy of the marker by sophomore corner Leondre Simmon's game-winning tackle in front of over 2,000 fans on hand for the annual Homecoming Game.
St. Lawrence will have its bye week next weekend before returning to action on Saturday, October 26 in Springfield, MA against the Springfield Pride. Rensselaer will host Rochester next weekend at noon.