The Utica College football team scored 17 points in the third
quarter on its way to a 24-10 victory over Wilkes University in non
conference play in front of 2,750 fans on the turf at Charles A.
Gaetano Stadium Saturday afternoon. The Pioneer defense held the
Colonels to just 130 yards of total offense (41 yards passing) and
just three points in the second half as UC improved to 4-0 for the
first time in the program's ten year history. The contest was
a part of the College's Homecoming festivities.
"Today's game was a great test for our guys because we faced a ton of adversity early on," said third year Head Coach Blaise Faggiano. "We responded in the third quarter and this is the type of game that will prepare us for our tough conference schedule."
The Utica offense was led once again by sophomore quarterback Andrew Benkwitt who tallied 239 yards and three touchdowns on the day. Freshman Justin Becker came on strong in the second half, rushing for 117 yards on just 13 carries, to help UC dominate time of possession in the final 30 minutes.
Wilkes has now lost two in a row to Empire 8 Conference opponents (44-7 loss against Springfield last week) and falls to 1-2 overall on the year. Zach Tivald led the rushing attach for the Colonels with 70 yards on 17 carries. Senior Kevin Gerhart and freshman Tate Moore-Jacobs led the way for a stingy Wilkes defense with 16 and 15 tackles, respectively.
"I give a ton of credit to Wilkes – their defense is very strong," said Faggiano. "They are the typical hard hitting, tough Pennsylvania, New Jersey team that is always difficult to score against. They are a very good team."
The first half proved to be an offensive struggle for both squads as the two teams combined for just 14 points and 250 yards of total offense. Each team punted four times in the first half and four costly penalties by the Pioneers resulted in a 7-7 tie at the half.
The Pioneers did, however, get on the board first when junior receiver Josh Mason capped a five play 46 yard drive with an 11 yard touchdown snag from Benkwitt to give UC a 7-0 lead with 11:37 to go in the half.
Just over two minutes later the Pioneers botched a punt, which was recovered by Wilkes, and a personal foul penalty gave the Colonels the ball on the Utica nine yard line. On the next play Tivald punched in the final touchdown of the half on the ground to knot the score at 7-7 with 9:22 to go in the half.
The Pioneer defense, led by sophomore Genaro Scampone's seven tackles, stood strong in the third quarter to give the UC offense, which led the nation in scoring headed into the game, a chance to get out on top.
Sophomore kicker TJ Losowski started the second half scoring with a 36 yard field goal at the 9:36 ledger of the third quarter to give UC a 10-7 lead. 6:36 later junior receiver Jeremy Meier caught a 14 yard touchdown pass from Benkwitt to put the Pioneers on top for good, 17-7. An interception by sophomore cornerback Jonathan White with 2:13 to go in the third quarter led to the Pioneers' final score of the day. Sophomore tight end Matt Dunn caught a 22 yard pass from Benkwitt with 1:13 to go in the third to close out the UC scoring.
Wilkes would add a 39 yard field goal by Chris Horn with just under five minutes to go in the fourth quarter but that was as close as the Colonels would get as the Pioneers earned the 14 point non conference victory.
Meier finished the day with five catches for a game-high 71 yards, while senior fullback Tim Millerick added four catches for 35 yards. Five different players tallied atleast five tackles for the Pioneer defense including senior linebacker Travis Ladd (six), classmate Kevin Hennion (six), defensive end Tracy Branch (five) and Terrell Cunningham (five ). Branch also added a sack, giving him 12 for his career. He needs just 2.5 more sacks to tie the school-record.
Utica returns to action for the third of a four game home stand, this time against conference rival St. John Fisher College, under the lights at Gaetano Stadium next Saturday. The contest is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. and it is the first night football game for the Pioneers in program-history. Today's game will be televised on Time Warner Cable Sports multiple times over the course of the next few weeks and it will be available on Time Warner Sports "On-Demand".
Wilkes returns home next Saturday to take on Albright at 1 p.m.
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