TROY, N.Y. - Opening the season with a tough non-conference battle against a 1999 NCAA Tournament participant, the Plymouth State College football team got its 2000 season off to a terrific start Saturday, handing host Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute a 24-10 defeat at '86 Field.
PSC sophomore receiver Nate Sergent (Gardiner, Maine) caught a pair of touchdown passes from sophomore QB Matt Simpson (Auburn, Maine) to lead the Panther attack. Junior halfback Russ Massahos (Windham, NH) did the bulk of the work, though, rushing 35 times for 150 yards.
The Panther defense was led by junior DB Mike Pelletier (Concord, NH), who intercepted two passes and led the team in tackles with 11.
Plymouth State returns home to host SUNY Brockport next Saturday (Sept. 16) in the home opener at Currier Field (12 noon).
"We felt we could play with Rensselaer all along," said PSC head coach Chris Rorke, "We just had to come here and execute. The key to beating them was to slow down their running game, and make their new quarterback beat us."
The Panther defense was its usual stifling unit, limiting the Engineer passing game to five completions in 18 attempts and just 64 yards. PSC picked off four passes from first-year starting quarterback Jason Lewis (Pelham, NH).
"We've always had great defense at Plymouth State," said Rorke, "and this year is no different. We've got the talent and we have speed in the defensive backfield, so I feel we should be good."
PSC led 7-0 at the end of one quarter, the score coming on a 12-yard pass from Simpson to sophomore Jason Bordas (Elmore, VT). RPI answered early in the second quarter on a six-yard run by Scott Allard (Clarksburg, Mass.), but the Panthers made it 10-7 at the intermission on a 27-yard field goal by junior Cory Skillin (Norwich, NY).
Sergent, a transfer to PSC from the University of Maine, caught his first TD from Simpson (12-for-28, 133 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT) from four yards out early in the third quarter, putting the Panthers up 17-7. The TD was set up by a 59-yard kick-off return to open the second half by freshman Uriah Davis (Derry, NH).
After a 25-yard field goal by Rensselaer's Eric Byrne (Norris, Tenn.), Sergent (4 rec., 73 yards, 2 TD) added the insurance score from Simpson on a 36-yard completion with six minutes remaining, ripping the ball from the defender's hands in the end zone.
While Sergent was making the big plays, it was Massahos doing the work in the trenches. His longest carry was for 19 yards, but he got key first downs when the team needed them.
"This was a big test for us to see where we are," said Massahos. "People like Nate Sergent made big plays, and everyone was communicating on both sides of the ball. We were trying to run outside in the first half, and it wasn't working so we went to the counter and I was able to break some runs in the middle, and that seemed to confuse them."
RPI finished the 1999 regular season campaign with a 9-0 record, and finished 9-1 overall after falling to Rowan in the NCAA Tournament, 29-10.
PSC played nearly mistake free on Saturday, not turning the ball over and getting flagged for only three penalties for 15 yards.