UNION, N.J. (10/8/11) – The Kean University football team scored 17 unanswered fourth-quarter points to erase a 10-point deficit and defeat Buffalo State College, 34-27, in New Jersey Athletic Conference action on Saturday afternoon.
The #8/10 Cougars (5-0, 4-0 NJAC) trailed 27-17 to start the fourth quarter, before senior Chris DiMicco scampered into the endzone with the 18-yard touchdown run with just 2:27 remaining to cap the comeback and give Kean just its second 5-0 start in program history.
The Bengals (2-4, 2-3 NJAC) scored three touchdowns in the third quarter to take the 27-17 lead.
In the fourth quarter, the Cougars took over at the Buffalo State 30-yard line after forcing the Bengals into a three-and-out and just an 11-yard punt. On the ensuing drive, senior quarterback Thomas D'Ambrisi completed five straight passes for all 30 yards, including a five-yard touchdown pass to junior fullback Danny Mendoza to pull within 27-24 midway through the quarter.
The Cougar defense again forced the Bengals to punt after just three plays and Kean would tie the game at 27-27 on a career-long 44-yard field goal by senior Billy Daniels, capping a nine-play, 50-yard drive with just 4:18 remaining in the game.
On Buffalo State's next possession, Kean junior Brett Yajcaji intercepted quarterback Casey Kacz and returned the ball 24-yards to the Bengal 21-yard line. DiMicco took it the rest of the way, first with a three-yard carry before scampering in the final 18-yards with a cut-back up the middle for the go-ahead touchdown with 2:27 left.
The Bengals had one drive remaining and managed an 18-yard first down completion on the first play, however an intentional grounding call set-up third and long and the Bengals turned the ball over on downs when the fourth-and-eight pass fell incomplete, as Kean took a knee twice to seal the win.
Kean took a 7-0 lead just 1:08 into the game, when sophomore Sean McKee completed a 30-yard pass to junior T.J. Denehy off the pitch from D'Ambrisi to set-up first-and-goal at the Buffalo State 10-yard line. DiMicco had a pair of carries for the remaining 10-yards, including the three-yard touchdown run to give Kean a 7-0 lead just three plays in the game.
The Bengals tied the game later in the quarter, as Kacz completed the 23-yard touchdown pass to a leaping sophomore wide receiver Caesarae Lewis, capping a six-play, 61-yard drive.
A 24-yard field goal by Daniels in the second quarter gave Kean the 10-7 lead and the score would remain that way at halftime, as Cougar senior linebacker Bekim Bujari blocked a 44-yard attempt from the Bengals on the final play of the half.
Buffalo State would quickly take a 14-10 lead to start the third quarter, as Lewis returned the second-half opening kick-off 83-yards for the touchdown.
The Cougars would regain the lead at 17-14 on their first drive of the second half when D'Ambrisi completed the 10-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Scott Davis with 12:32 remaining in the quarter.
Buffalo State answered right back with a six-play, 60-yard drive, as Kacz completed five passes for 59 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown pass to Lewis for the 20-17 lead.
After a 46-yard field goal attempt from Daniels was wide left, the Bengals extended the lead to double-digits with their third touchdown of the quarter, as sophomore running back Ismail Brooks opened the drive with a 34-yard carry and capped it with a four-yard scoring run for the 27-17 lead with 2:23 left in the third quarter.
For the Cougars, D'Ambrisi completed just 21-of-43 passes for 191 yards and eclipsed 6,000 career passing yards. The four-year starter now has 6,081 career passing yards and 52 career touchdown passes, both the second highest in school history. DiMicco finished with 20 carries for 96 yards and two touchdowns. Denehy had game-highs of eight receptions and 105 yards receiving.
Daniels became the program's all-time leader in PAT made, as he converted all four extra point attempts to give him 74 for his career break the all-time mark of 70 held by Jon Robinson (2004-07).
Defensively, Bujari finished with a game-high 10 tackles and had two forced fumbles and one blocked kick. Junior Chris VanFechtmann had six solo stops, including a sack for a six-yard loss, and one pass break-up.
For Buffalo State, Brooks had 11 carries for 87 yards and one touchdown and Kacz completed 17-of-30 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns. Lewis made six catches for 89 yards and had three total touchdowns.
The Bengal defense was led by Jahi Owens and Zach Guzda, who each finished with six tackles, while Guzda added a pair of pass break-ups.
The Cougars travel to The College at Brockport next Saturday, October 16. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.