Utica 28, Union 27 - Box Score
Utica, N.Y. (9/10/11) - The Utica College football team rallied from an eight point deficit in the fourth quarter, taking the lead after a 7-play, 60 yard touchdown drive with 3:20 left, to lift the Pioneers to a 28-27 victory in their home opener against Union College Saturday night in front of 4,075 fans at Charles A. Gaetano Stadium. Junior quarterback Andrew Benkwitt had another huge day, completing 27-of-35 passes for 337 yards and two touchdowns. Junior wide receiver Jamie Murphy had a career-day, catching a game-high eight balls for 153 yards and two touchdowns, including a key 54 yard touchdown grab in the fourth quarter to help the Pioneers (2-0) remain undefeated on the young season.
"We knew that Union was goiong to show up well prepared - especially after a tough loss in week one. Coach Audino does a great job with his team and they gave us all we could handle today," said Utica Head Coach Blaise Faggiano. "I'm just so proud of our guys for sticking with it and overcoming some adversity tonight. It was a great environment for our home-opener under the lights and we could not have asked for a better result."
Union let a fourth quarter lead slip away for the second straight week as their overall record dropped to
0-2 on the year. The Dutchmen were led by sophomore running back Dylan Schuck's 108 yards rushing on 25 carries, while junior receiver Justin Gallo added a team-best seven catches for 137 yards and one touchdown.
Union came out firing and scored on its first drive of the contest after winning the coin toss and electing to receive. The Dutchmen marched 62 yards on 11 plays, capped by a 10 yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Drew Connolly to Tim Hersey to put Union on top, 7-0, early. Connolly finished the day with 16 completions for 228 yards and two touchdowns and became the fifth quarterback in Union College football history to pass for 5,000 yards in a career.
The Pioneers had trouble converting on third down in the first half as three drives resulted in field goals by junior kicker Seth Mitchell. Mitchell connected on field goals of 22 yards, 20 yards and he also added a 38 yarder to close out the first half of play. Union's Adam Henry also added a first quarter field goal and the Dutchmen held a one point lead, 10-9, as the first half clock expired. The two teams were equally matched in the first half, with the Pioneers barely edging the visitors in total offensive yards, 204-181.
"Our special teams were so big in the first half," said Faggiano. "Seth Mitchell deserves a ton of credit for helping to keep us in this game in the first 30 minutes."
The second half featured three lead changes, with the Pioneers coming out on top late in the fourth quarter. Murphy's 13 yard touchdown catch in the corner of the end zone capped a six play, 45 yard drive early in the third quarter to give Utica its first lead of the game, 16-10, less than two minutes into the third quarter.
Union answered right back with two consecutive touchdowns to take an eight point lead, 24-16, with 13:54 to go in the contest. Gallo caught a 15 yard touchdown pass from Connolly, and Schuck capped an incredible 98 yard drive with a nine yard touchdown run to give the Dutchman the advantage early in the fourth. Union's 98 yard touchdown drive was a result of a key interception on the Dutchmen's own two yard line by junior linebacker Jeff DeVico. DeVico finished the day with ten tackles and he also broke up one pass.
Murphy was able to respond for UC with his 54 yard touchdown reception just 50 seconds later, but the Pioneers were unable to capitalize on the two-point conversion attempt and Union clung to a two point lead, 24-22, with 13:40 to go in regulation.
Union's ensuing drive ate up 6:45 of the clock and resulted in a 29 yard field goal from the foot of senior kicker Adam Henry to give the visitors a five point lead.
The Pioneers next drive proved to be the game-winner. Benkwitt led UC on a seven-play 60 yard march, set up by a 47 yard reception from Murphy, before junior tight end Matt Dunn caught his third touchdown of the season to put the Pioneers on top by one. UC failed to convert on the two-point try and held a 28-27 lead with 3:20 to go in the game.
Union was successful on 4-of-4 fourth down conversions until the final drive of the contest when the
Pioneer defense came up huge when it had to, and stopped the Dutchmen on fourth down with 1:51 to go to seal the one point victory for UC. Sophomore safety Eric Rindo had a big day, making a career-high 15 stops for UC, while junior defensive lineman Jerrod Clowes added a career-best 11 tackles. Sophomore linebacker Dana Christofferson made a career-high ten tackles and junior safety Luke Manolescu added nine stops to pace the Pioneer defense. Zach Jones and Alex Rukavena each added eight tackles a piece for UC.
Junior linebacker Noah Joseph made 11 stops for the Dutchmen, while senior safety Richard Sixto added eight stops.
Junior transfer Jake Larson led the Pioneers' ground game with 47 yards on eight carries, while junior running back Jake Scott added 40 yards on nine carries. Scott needs just seven points to become the College's career scoring leader. Former UC kicker Casey McNulty is currently atop the all-time scoring list with 108 career points.
The Pioneers hit the road again next Saturday when they open up Empire 8 Conference play at Frostburg State University in Frostburg, Maryland. The contest is set to begin at 1:30 p.m. Union returns to the friendly confines of Frank Bailey Field next Saturday for its home-opener at 1 p.m. against Ithaca College.
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