SLU Ready To Build On Record Filled Football Season
CANTON - The St. Lawrence University football team won more games than it had in the previous two seasons combined, and the team broke 14 school records in 2019 as the program took the next step in a rebuilding process that head coach Dan Puckhaber hopes will put the team back in contention for a Liberty League title.
"To get a league championship you've got to have a pretty special group with some experience and you've got to get some breaks to go your way," said Puckhaber, who has been the head coach for four seasons and been coaching in the program for the last 10. "Starting out the year the way we did, going 0-2 against two good football teams on the road and then coming back to win that home opener against Morrisville was huge just to create some momentum and confidence that they were able to carry into the rest of the season."
The Saints got back to .500 with wins over Morrisville State (32-22) and a shutout over Hartwick (33-0), but then fell in back-to-back games against nationally-ranked league opponents Ithaca and Union.
The team responded the next game with its most dominant half in recent history, outgaining Rensselaer 323-98 to build a 28-0 halftime lead en route to a 35-17 win. St. Lawrence sophomore quarterback Tyler Grochot was 23-for-33 passing for four touchdowns in the half in his first conference win.
"It was a huge win for our offense and our quarterback and our football team," said Puckhaber. "He hadn't had that statement league win yet, and that was his opportunity, especially after the Ithaca and Union games, to come out and dominate."
After a loss to Hobart on the road the following week, the Saints won their final two games, dominating Rochester 51-19 on senior day at Leckonby Stadium, then winning a nail-bitter at Buffalo State, 31-26. Buffalo State took a 26-25 lead with 2:23 to play before Grochot capped a 7-play, 70-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown run with 1:05 to play. Tyler Burns intercepted a pass in the end zone to end the game for the Saints.
"That game shows that these guys are starting to learn that it takes 60 full minutes to win a football game," said Puckhaber. "I'm really excited for what the future brings because a lot of those same guys that learned that lesson this year are coming back next year."
Grochot broke single-season records in pass attempts (426), pass completions (247) and passing yards (2,978), while Joseph Viscardo broke the program record for receiving touchdowns in a season (14) and tied the program record for touchdown receptions in a game (4), a feat he accomplished twice. The Saints also broke team records for completions (271) and passing yards (3,301) and ranked seventh nationally with 330.1 passing yards per game.
"Tyler is a really good football player," said Puckhaber. "I think the offense that we're running is really emphasizing some of the things he does well. And Joe Viscardo has become the receiver that we thought he was going to be. He's a 6-3, 200-pound outside receiver who can run really, really good routes. And on top of that, he can catch the ball with his hands above his head or if it's thrown anywhere near him; he has great body control. They have that chemistry where you don't have to talk it out, they just know where the other one is going to go."
Defensively, the Saints had 14 interceptions and 37 pass breakups, the most for the program since the 2015 season. The team led the league in fourth down conversion defense and in tackles behind the line of scrimmage in defensive coordinator Jacob Lees first season on campus.
"The defense is starting to adopt Coach Lees' personality," said Puckhaber. "We had some guys that we knew were really good football players starting to really make some plays, like Ethan Roberts and Tyler Burns. We're starting to let some guys make some plays and be special defensive players, and we started to see that this year with the turnovers we created."
Looking forward, the Saints will graduate just four players who started five or more games this year, while 18 players who started five or more are slated to return, including 11 who started every game this season. Puckhaber expects that the lessons the players learned this year will help the team continue to work hard to continue to climb up in the league standings and compete for a conference championship.
"This junior class that's currently on campus that will be seniors next year was a class of 50 when they first got here three years ago," says Puckhaber. "I'm really looking forward to seeing that last dance with them next year. We have a bunch of really good players on our football team and we have a chance to be a great football team. I think that momentum of being a 5-5 team and only doing that for the sixth time in the last 27 years here shows that St. Lawrence is starting to become that more competitive football school. We don't promise championships, they're earned. In 10 years here we've gotten three of them and we're hoping next year we'll have a chance to compete for a fourth."
Individual Program Records
Most TD Passes, Game — Tyler Grochot, 6 (vs. Rochester, Nov. 9) – tied record
Most TD Receptions, Game — Joseph Viscardo 4 (vs. Morrisville State, Sept. 20, vs. Rensselaer, Oct. 26) – tied record
Most Pass Breakups, Game* — Theo Blaschinski, 4 (vs. Hartwick, Sept. 28) – tied record
Pass Attempts, Season — Tyler Grochot, 426
Pass Completions, Season — Tyler Grochot, 247
Passing Yards, Season — Tyler Grochot, 2,978
Passing Yards Per Game —Tyler Grochot, 297.8
Receiving TDs, Season — Joseph Viscardo, 14
Points Scored, Season — Joseph Viscardo, 84 (tied record)
TDs Scored, Season — Joseph Viscardo, 14 (tied record)
Blocked Kicks* — Ricky Hober, 4 (tied record)
Team Program Records
Pass Completions, Season — 271
Passing Yards, Season — 3,301
* Note: Defensive records are from 2008-present
Ethan Roberts (LB)
CoSIDA Academic All-District
Ethan Roberts (LB)
Max Warden (OL)
First-Team All-Liberty League
Tyler Burns (DB)
Ethan Roberts (LB)
Max Warden (OL)
Second-Team All-Liberty League
Liam Murray (LB)
Joseph Viscardo (WR)
Honorable Mention All-Liberty League
Jamie Battaglia (RB)
Nick Castrova (OL)
Tyler Grochot (QB)
Ricky Hober (DL)
Rahmod Johnson (DB)
Caleb Null (DL)
Liberty League Offensive Performer of the Week
Tyler Grochot (Sept. 16, Oct. 28, Nov. 11)
Joseph Viscardo (Sept. 23)
Liberty League Defensive Performer of the Week
Ethan Roberts (Sept. 23)
Tyler Burns (Nov. 18)
Liberty League Special Teams Performer of the Week
Tyler Burns (Oct. 28)
Liberty League Weekly Honor Roll
Jamie Battaglia (Sept. 9, Sept. 30)
William Manory (Sept. 16, Sept. 23)
Devin Kelley (Sept. 30)
Liam Murray (Sept. 30, Oct. 28)
Jackson Reaper (Oct. 7)
Andrew Murphy (Oct. 21)
Ethan Roberts (Oct. 21)
Ricky Hober (Nov. 11)
Tyler Grochot (Nov. 18)
Liberty League All-Academic