First-year Conor Callahan kicked a 37-yard field goal as time expired to give Hobart College a 20-17 victory over the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute football team in a Liberty League showdown in the final regular season game on ’86 Field.
With the victory, Hobart improves to 7-1 overall and 5-1 in the Liberty League and takes over first place in the conference with one week remaining in the regular season. The Statesmen can clinch the title and earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament with a win over Rochester next Saturday. RPI, ranked 17th in the nation by the AFCA and 20th by D3football.com, falls to 7-1 and 5-1.
Hobart earned the victory with a 9-play, 53-yard drive in the final 2:28 which Callahan finished with the longest field goal of his career. Classmate Doug Vella, who came off the bench to replace injured starting quarterback – and holder – Rich Doyle earlier in the quarter, dug out a low snap and spotted the ball, which Callahan kicked through the uprights with plenty of distance.
The Statesmen got the ball back for the winning drive after Rensselaer tied the game on a 50-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Jimmy Robertson to Patrick McCarthy with just 2:34 remaining in the fourth quarter.
RPI’s touchdown immediately countered a 17-play 84-yard drive that ended with Vella finding Andy Schettine in the back of the end zone for a touchdown on a fourth-and-goal play from the 1-yard line.
Prior to the 24-point fourth quarter, the two teams combined for just 13 points through the first 45 minutes of play.
After only gaining eight yards of offense on its first four possessions of the game, Hobart broke a scoreless tie with the help of a blocked punt by senior linebacker Justin Hager. Ryan Robinson picked up the bouncing ball and returned it 32 yards for the touchdown. PJ Overdorf added the extra point and the Statesmen led, 7-0, with 57 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Junior kicker Peter Nilson pulled RPI within four points, 7-3, with a 27-yard field goal with 6:49 remaining in the second quarter. A 19-yard field goal attempt by Nilson with 19 seconds left in the first half was blocked by Hager allowing the Statesmen to carry their advantage into the break.
In the first half, RPI held Hobart’s offense to only 28 yards, including minus-13 yards rushing, on 22 plays. On the other side, the Engineers gained 202 yards, including 75 yards rushing by sophomore running back Nick Costa. However, Rensselaer had the two kicks blocked as well as a pass intercepted in the end zone by senior free safety Lance Boyington.
The Statesmen pushed their lead to 10-3 with a 14-play, 67-yard drive late in the third quarter that was capped by a 31-yard field goal by Callahan.
RPI came right back to tie the score on a 6-yard run through the right side of the line by Costa, which capped a 10-play, 69-yard drive. Two key plays on the drive for the Engineers were a 26-yard run by Bobby on a fake punt and a 21-yard pass completion from Robertson to Ray Davis that brought the ball to the Hobart 6-yard line.
Hobart finished with 259 yards of total offense, including 47 rushing, while Rensselaer amassed 392 yards. The Engineers rushed for 157 yards.
Vella completed 7 of 12 passes for 82 yards and one touchdown and he also ran for 43 yards on eight carries. Before being injured, Doyle was 16-for-32 for 130 yards with one interception. Junior wide receiver Tyler Vincent led the Statesmen in receiving with eight catches for 80 yards. On defense, senior linebacker Jeff Sanders had 14 tackles, including one sack, and Hager, who is also a linebacker, had 10 tackles to go with his two blocked kicks.
For the Engineers, Robertson finished with 235 yards passing, completing 18 of 44 attempts and one interception. Costa rushed for 102 yards on 21 attempts, while Davis caught eight passes for a career-high 123 yards. Junior linebacker Stefan Schulz had nine tackles, one of which was for a loss of six yards, and an interception with a 7-yard return. Senior defensive lineman Nick Casale chipped in with seven tackles, including two sacks (4 yards lost), and a fumble recovery.