Rensselaer Hangs on in Blizzard Conditions for a 21-16 Win over Ithaca
In what can best be described as a game played in some of the most challenging conditions in NCAA football history, RPI defeated Ithaca College 21-16 to advance to the Division III Football Semi-finals against St. John's University of Minnesota next weekend.
Want an idea how bad the conditions were? Check out these photos of the game, reportedly taken by a Rensselaer alumnus. (We would provide attribution, but the person who pointed out the existence of these pictures did not fully identify himself.)
RPI jumped out to a 14-0 lead on its first two posessions. Senior quarterback Dan Cole connected on a 59-yard touchdown pass to Pat Hughes on the third play from scrimmage. On the next drive, Cole connected with freshman John Branche on a 37-yard pass. Ithaca could manage only a 21-yard field goal before halftime, to make the score 14-3.
During halftime, WRPI color commentator Bob Conway suggested that 14 points wouldn't be enough to win the game, and he was right. Ithaca struck first in the second half, with a 26-yard TD pass from Josh Felicetti to Justin Esposito. The PAT-attempt failed, so RPI lead 14-9.
Cole then hooked up with Branche again for a 16-yard TD. Kicker Matt Verenini made the last of his three extra points to make the score 21-9. Ithaca subsequently scored a touchdown with 3:42 to go in regulation, but was intercepted in its next posession. RPI ran out the clock for the victory.
The Times Union has an excellent article about the RPI-Ithaca game. In it, Rensselaer head coach Joe King said:
It's a game that I think everybody who played and coached in it will remember forever. I've never seen conditions like that before. I don't know if anybody else has. But I thought both teams played very well under the circumstances. I thought we played outstanding on offense.
RPI is now one game away from the Stagg Bowl, the Division III National Championship Game. Before it gets to participate in that, it must meet and defeat St. John's on their home field in Collegeville, Minnesota. That game will take place next Saturday at 1:00 Eastern Time.