CANTON St. Lawrence Universitys big-play defense came through again Saturday, helping the Saints snap a 14-year losing streak to the University of Rochester with a 14-10 Liberty League victory at Leckonby Stadium.
Rochester outgained St. Lawrence 406-264, but nearly every time SLU (4-1 overall, 2-0 conference) needed to make a big stop on defense, it came through. Rochester converted on just one of four fourth-down attempts.
The victory gave the Saints their best start to a season since 1985.
It feels great, Saints coach Mark Raymond said. Im just so proud of our players and coaches. Theyve just gelled as a group and played tremendously hard and worked tremendously hard and they are coming up huge in critical moments. I couldnt be prouder of a group of guys. The defense played great. They really prepare hard during the week to know the opponent and theyve been executing.
SLU struggled on offense in the second half, failing to make even one first down until there were 9 minutes, 7 seconds left in the game.
But the Saints, who had owned the 14-10 lead since late in the third quarter, took over with 4:25 left on their own 30 and ran a six-play, 34-yard drive that wound the clock down to 1:11, picking up two first downs on 13- and 6-yard runs by Maurice Irby.
Mo is the man in the backfield, Saints linebacker Alec Dietsch said. Hes been getting first downs like that. We look to him in those situations and hes been coming through for us.
Said Irby, (Rochester) had a couple good play calls and backed us up and that brought the morale down a little bit. But we picked it back up when the time mattered. We wasted four minutes off the clock and they used their timeouts and the defense came back and did their job.
When the final Saints series ended, punter Brodie Corless was able to pin Rochester on its own 4 and six plays later the clock ran out on the Yellowjackets chances.
Rochester (2-2, 1-1) couldnt have had a better start to the game as R.J. Borgolini intercepted a Mike Lefflbine pass on the second play from scrimmage, giving the Yellowjackets the ball on the SLU 30.
But that merely gave the Saints defense their first chance to come through in key moments, as Shane Hart recovered a fumble for SLU on a 4th-and-1 from the Saints 21.
SLU took a 7-0 lead a bit later when Lefflbine connected with Irby on a 15-yard pass play with 8:29 left in the first half.
Rochester responded to SLUs score with a drive of its own, reaching the SLU 18. But Yellowjackets running back Willie Roberson dropped an open pass near the end zone on a 4th-and-15 play to stall another drive.
Irby, who gained 67 yards on 18 carries, extended SLUs lead to 14-0 with a 1-yard scoring run with 7:42 left in the first half.
Maurice is a tough, hard-nosed football player, Raymond said. When he gets a crack up front and finds it, hes strong enough to make the first guy miss. Hes not an easy guy to tackle. Hes very strong, hes quick and he runs with a lot of motivation.
Rochester thought it scored a touchdown late in the first half, but a nice catch in the corner of the end zone by Adam Schempp was waved off due to an ineligible receiver downfield, forcing the Yellowjackets to settle for a field goal and a 14-3 halftime deficit.
Rochester took control in the second half, receiving the kickoff and driving to the SLU 4 before another drive was thwarted, this time on a fourth-down sack by Obi Nwaigwe, which resulted in an eight-yard loss.
(Raymond) really preached teamwork and effort and toughness and every single one on the defensive side displayed that, Nwaigwe said. It was just a good win. By the time we got to halftime, coach told us not to be complacent and to keep pushing and keep pushing, because they can pick up the momentum and really hurt us.
Rochester cut SLUs lead to 14-10 with 6:16 left in the third on a 2-yard run from Devin White, but that would be the last score of the game.