By CAP CAREY
CANTON — Once again big plays from St. Lawrence University’s defense led to another victory.
The Saints won their third straight Liberty League game Saturday, knocking off Rensselaer 20-13 before 2,027 fans at Leckonby Stadium Saturday afternoon.
A winless team a year ago, SLU improved to 5-1 overall and is beginning to resemble the 2010 squad which won its first four Liberty League contests and eventually claimed the conference championship.
Saints coach Mark Raymond
The Saints were even with RPI in turnovers Saturday, but two of the Saints touchdowns were set up by RPI’s only turnovers of the game.
The biggest one came late in the third quarter when SLU fumbled on a 4th-down play on RPI’s 29-yard line, only to see the Saints defense force an Engineer fumble on the very next play, which was recovered by Grant Brightman.
Saints quarterback Mike Lefflbine took immediate advantage, throwing a 29-yard scoring pass to Mike Tateosian to break a 13-13 tie and give the Saints the lead for good with 5 minutes, 33 seconds left in the third quarter.
RPI tried to respond to SLU’s go-ahead touchdown, moving to the Saints 28 on the next drive. But a 45-yard field goal attempt from Andrew Franks missed wide left.
SLU had its own chance to put the game away on offense, driving to RPI’s 4 with less than three minutes to play. But after the Saints drive stalled a field-goal attempt by Collin Shapiro went wide right, giving RPI one more chance to tie the game.
Every home game at Leckonby Stadium this season has come down to the final plays, and this time the big play was an incomplete pass thrown by RPI’s Jeff Avery on a 4th-and-4 from the Saints 34 with 92 seconds left in the game.
As it has every game this season, SLU took an early lead when Lefflbine completed a 1-yard pass to Malone native Mitch Gallagher with 8:36 left in the first quarter. The extra-point kick failed.
RPI responded with a 10-play, 51-yard drive but had to settle for a 42-yard field goal from Franks, cutting SLU’s lead to 6-3 with 2:48 left in the first quarter.
SLU’s defense set up the Saints next touchdown as RPI’s Avery fumbled on his own 18 after he was hit by Saints safety James Holley-Grisham. SLU linebacker Shane Hart scooped up the loose ball and ran all the way to the 4 before he was finally tackled.
Three plays later Lefflbine connected with Gallagher for another touchdown pass, this one for five yards, to give the Saints a 13-3 advantage.
Gallagher TD (no audio)
A miscue from SLU helped RPI get back into the game before halftime. Joe Battaglia fumbled a punt on his own 18 and the Engineers recovered and then scored four plays later on a 2-yard run from Nick Schlatz to make it 13-10 with 3:32 left in the first half.
RPI regained possession with 2:07 left in the half and moved 35 yards on eight plays, tying the game on a 28-yard field goal from Franks.
SLU is off next weekend and its next conference game is at Springfield (Mass.) College on Oct. 26. The Saints next home game is on Nov. 2 against the Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
Saints Stop a 4th Down in First Quarter