ONEONTA, NY – Two unbeatens go head to head on Saturday in Rochester as the Hartwick Hawks (3-0) visit nationally 10th ranked St. John Fisher Cardinals (3-0) at Growney Stadium at 4 p.m. The game marks the Empire 8 Conference opener for both teams.
Fans can follow the game through live stats, a radio broadcast, or live video stream. Links to all the action can be found on the Hartwick schedule page at: http://www.hartwickhawks.com/schedule.aspx?path=football.
Hartwick is off to its best start since 2009 with three straight victories over Husson, Morrisville State, and Becker. The Hawks have racked up 144 points in those contests and have won by an average margin of 27.3 points.
"It's exciting to start the year off 3-0," said Hartwick head coach Mark Carr. "We've been pleased as a coaching staff with the effort of the guys. They've been playing very well together as a group this season and we want it to continue Saturday."
The Hawks will be looking for just the seventh 4-0 start in the history of the program on Saturday. The team is accumulating over 476 yards of offense this season, which ranks 26th in Division III football. 'Wick's 48 points per game ranks 12th.
Individually on offense, junior quarterback Mike Mathews (Pound Ridge, NY / Fox Lane HS) has a passing efficiency rating of 194.32, good enough for 6th nationally. Freshman Tanner Williams (Eagle Bridge, NY/Hoosick Falls HS) is 14th in reception yards per game (116.67/game) and 28th in all-purpose yards (167/game). Junior running back Kurtis Ahart's (Spencer, NY/Spencer Van Etten HS) is tied for 43rd in the country in rushing with an average of 107.33 yards per outing.
The 'Wick defense has been no slouch this season. The Hawks are the top-ranked team in the country in the category of sacks. They have earned 19 sacks for 102 yards in three games for an average of 6.33 per game. The unit is also 36th in pass efficiency defense with a rating of 98.48.
Freshman Dante Crump (Kingston, NY/Kingston HS) is tied for eighth in interceptions with three in his first three collegiate games. Two of his three picks have been returned for a touchdown.
Highlighting the Hartwick specials teams is returner Ryan Manning (Watervliet, NY/Watervliet HS). The sophomore has returned four punts for a total of 105 yards. His average of 26.25 yards per return puts him second in the nation in the category.
St. John Fisher has won all three of its games this season by six points or less. The Cardinals, who advanced to the NCAA Division III quarterfinals last season, beat Thomas More 13-7 in overtime in their opener, edged Washington & Jefferson 28-24, and University of Rochester 20-16 last weekend.
"Fisher is a quality opponent," added Carr. "They're big, athletic, and we're excited to play them. It's a big game for us against a top 10 team in their house."
The Cardinals are averaging 330.50 yards per game (130th nationally) thus far in 2012. The Fisher defense is allowing just 15.50 point per game which is tied for 15th in the country.
The game between the Hawks and Cardinals is the 16th all-time, with Fisher leading the series 9-6. Hartwick last won in Rochester in 2008 by a 31-28 final score. Last season, the Hawks led 20-3 in the first half before the Cardinals pulled away in the second half in a 55-28 win.
Saturday marks the first of seven Empire 8 games for the Hawks. The total includes a meeting with Buffalo State, which made noise this week for defeating three-time defending national champion Wisconsin-Whitewater 7-6 on the road while snapping the Warhawks' 46-game unbeaten streak.
"From top to bottom, the Empire 8 is one of the top football conferences in the country," stated Carr. "We're going to take it one play at a time each game and hope we can continue to ride the momentum we've generated in our first few games."