AU football team beats Cortland, 34-20, in NCAA East Region semifinals

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CORTLAND, NY – Alfred defeated SUNY Cortland, 34-20, Saturday afternoon in a second-round NCAA Division III championship tournament game. Alfred (10-2), the sixth seed in the tournament's East Region, advances to the regional finals next Saturday, Dec. 4, at noon at top-seeded Mount Union.

The AU defense held Cortland (10-2), which came into the game averaging 191 yards per game on the ground, to 79 rushing yards. Cortland had been holding opponents to just under 79 yards rushing per contest; AU freshman tailback Austin Dwyer had 72 yards in the first quarter. Dwyer finished with 186 yards on 32 carries, giving him 1,390 on the season, just 16 yards off the school single-season mark set in 2007 by Vinson Hendrix.

AU turned the ball over twice in the first half, but Cortland, the second seed in the East Region, was only able to convert the miscues into three points. After taking possession at the Saxon 37-yard line following an AU fumble on the opening kickoff, the Red Dragons settled for a 24-yard Marc Corrado field goal 2:39 into the first quarter.

Alfred scored two unanswered touchdowns to take a 14-3 lead at the half. Dwyer powered the Saxons' first-half offense, running for 94 yards on 12 carries. He opened Alfred's scoring with a 30-yard TD run with 4:59 left in the opening quarter, capping a three-play 44-yard drive. The Saxons took a 14-3 lead with 5:18 left in the second when junior linebacker Nick Clark scored a four-yard touchdown run, which ended a eight-play, 91-yard drive.

Cortland had a chance to close the deficit when the Red Dragons took over near midfield after an AU fumble and drove to the Saxon 17-yard line, but Corrado's 37-yard field goal try as the half ended was wide right.

The Saxon defense held Cortland to just 68 yards of offense and three first downs in the first half. Alfred's offense, meanwhile, produced 225 yards of offense, with 14 first downs, before intermission.

The Saxons scored on their opening possession of the second half. Sophomore strong safety Reggie Pressley intercepted Cortland quarterback Dan Pitcher near midfield and Alfred drove 52 yards in six plays, with Clark powering in from two yards out. The extra point attempt failed and Alfred held a 20-3 lead. Cortland answered, getting a 26-yard Corrado field goal to draw the Red Dragons within two score, at 20-6.

AU drove into Cortland territory on the Saxons' ensuing possession but turned the ball over on downs at the Red Dragon 19-yard line. Cortland drove 81 yards in nine plays, scoring, on a 14-yard TD pass from Pitcher to tight end Eddie Spillett with 1:28 left in the third to make it 20-13. The drive was aided by a pair of 15-yard personal foul calls against the Saxons.

Alfred regained a two-touchdown lead (27-13) with 8:27 left in the fourth, driving 46 yards in seven plays, with junior quarterback Tom Secky hooking up with senior tight end D.J. Loughlin-Pope on a 13-yard touchdown pass. Cortland responded two drives later, forcing an Alfred punt and driving 60 yards in seven plays and scoring on a 14-yard pass from Pitcher to wide receiver Mike Humphrey with 2:59 left to make it 27-20.

Cortland attempted an onside kick, but the ball didn't travel 10 yards and AU took over at the Red Dragon 38-yard line. After AU gained nine yards on a pair of Dwyer runs, Clark plowed into the line on a third-and-one carry, broke a tackle and sprinted 29 yards for the touchdown, his third of the contest, giving Alfred a 34-20 lead with 1:20 left. Cortland turned the ball over on an interception in AU territory and the Saxons ran out the clock.

For the game, AU had 436 yards of offense. Clark had 42 yards on six carries with three touchdowns, giving him a team-leading 12 rushing TDs on the season, and Secky completed 17 of 27 passes for 211 yards and a touchdown. Senior wideout Ryan Thon had five catches for 60 yards and sophomore wide receiver Andre McCloud (74 yards) and freshman wide receiver Josh Phillips (38 yards) each had four receptions.

The Alfred defense held Cortland to 253 yards of offense; the Red Dragons came into the game averaging nearly 360 per contest. Pitcher (20-of-40) finished with 174 yards passing with three interceptions and two touchdowns. Wide receiver Anthony Giuliano caught six passes for 56 yards and Humphrey caught four for 30 yards and a score. Tailback Justin Autera, the nation's 18th-leading rusher (averaging 120.4 yards per game), was held to 56 yards on 18 carries.

Clark led the Saxon defense with 10 tackles (seven solo, one for loss), a sack and an interception. Junior linebacker Wes Smith (two tackles for loss) and Pressley (two pass breakups) each had nine tackles and an interception. Sophomore end Chris Steeves had two sacks and senior linebacker Chad Pieri had six tackles and a sack.

Cortland's defense was paced by strong safety Chris Hanlon's game-high 16 tackles. End Matt Kaufmann had 12 tackles (two for loss) and 1.5 sacks and linebacker Cody Allen had seven tackles and a forced fumble. With the victory, Alfred's 10th of the year, the Saxons tie the school single-season mark set by the 1981 team.

Maintenance in progress.
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