Ithaca, NY (9/29/2012) - The Ithaca College football team jumped out to a 24-10 lead in the first half and used great ball control (38:43 time of possession) and a balanced offensive attack (490 yards of total offense) in the second half to down visiting Utica College 40-22 in Empire 8 Conference action at Butterfield Stadium Saturday afternoon.
"A few costly mistakes early on put us in a hole that was difficult to fight out of. I've got to hand it to Ithaca for putting together a great game plan. They controlled the time of possession and that made it difficult for us to fight back," said UC Head Coach Blaise Faggiano, who won a national championship during his playing days at Ithaca College. "Our guys proved once again that we never give up, and I am certainly proud of them for their effort. We will get right back to it tomorrow and Monday and start preparing for another tough one against Buffalo State next weekend."
Ithaca (4-0, 2-0 Empire 8), which is receiving votes in the AFCA and D3football.com national polls, remained undefeated on the year and avenged a 20-15 loss at the hands of the Pioneers last season. The Bombers had just three full possessions in the second half, which led to two touchdowns, while the Pioneers (2-2, 0-1 E8) only had three offensive drives in the entire second half as well, scoring on two of them.
It was a matchup of arguably two of the top wide receivers in the Empire 8 as Ithaca's Joseph Ingrao and UC's Jeremy Meier both posted great showings. Ingrao finished the afternoon with 10 catches for a game-high 174 yards and one touchdown, while Meier, who entered the game ranked sixth nationally in average receiving yards per game, added 10 catches for 151 yards. Meier, who has 1,772 career receiving yards, now needs 23 yards to move into second on the College's all-time list.
Senior quarterback Andrew Benkwitt, who was starting in his 34th straight game, completed 25-of-39 passes for 294 yards and one touchdown. Benkwitt also ran for a score of his own in the fourth quarter. He was slightly outdone by Ithaca's Phil Neumann, who also completed 25 passes for 310 yards and two touchdowns.
"We certainly did not play bad today – Ithaca just played a near perfect game," said Faggiano of his alma mater's production on both sides of the ball. "You can't give up 40 points and expect to win at this level and that is something that we need to work on."
Two straight Pioneer turnovers (failed fake punt, Jamie Murphy lost fumble) led to 14 points on the board for the host Bombers midway through the first quarter. Jared Prugar caught a 29 yard pass from Neumann for the Bombers first score, and Josh Oliver used the wildcat formation to rush for an eight yard touchdown to spot Ithaca a 14 point advantage.
After a UC punt, the Bombers opened the second quarter just as it did in the first, scoring on a four yard touchdown connection, Neumann to Ingrao.
Utica got on the board at the midpoint of the second quarter when freshman place kicker Thomas Woodburn capped a 17 play, 73 yard drive with a 26 yard field goal.
Following an Ithaca field goal, the Pioneers punched in a quick score in just over a minute as they marched 72 yards in eight plays to cut their deficit to 14 points, 24-10, at the half. Jesse Baldassare stuck home his second touchdown of the year from three yards out to put a much needed boost into the Pioneers' offensive unit. Baldassare finished the day with a respectable 17 carries for 76 yards.
After a scoreless third quarter, a costly roughing the passer penalty led to a first and goal for the Bombers and Oliver capitalized with another wildcat formation rushing touchdown from five yards out to extend the home teams lead back to 21 points, 31-10. Ithaca's scoring drive ate up 6:28 of the clock as the Bombers drove 95 yards on 13 plays.
The Pioneer defense had trouble securing a third down stop in the second half, ultimately leading to Ithaca's 14-of-19 conversion rate on third downs throughout the contest.
Each team exchanged blows in the fourth quarter, scoring two touchdowns a piece, but two blocked extra points by Ithaca led to the final 18 point lead as time expired. Utica junior receiver Jamie Murphy, who had a huge game for the Pioneers against Ithaca last season, scored the final touchdown of the contest and finished the game with four catches for 33 yards. Murphy's touchdown catch moved him into a tie for eighth on the College's all-time receiving touchdowns list. Ithaca's final scoring drive took up 8:51 on the clock (14 plays, 82 yards).
UC's Joe Giametta had another solid day, tallying a team-best 13 tackles, while senior defensive end Michael Herberger hawked the Ithaca quarterback all day, totaling seven tackles and one sack. Herberger is now tied for sixth on the College's career sacks list with six. Senior captain Genaro Scampone added seven tackles and one sack, while senior Kyle Taft picked up a sack of his own.
Ithaca's Clay Ardoin, from nearby Dolgeville, carried the load on the ground for the Bombers, totaling 139 yards on 20 carries.
Utica remains on the road Saturday when they travel to Empire 8 Conference newcomer Buffalo State to take on the Bengals for the first time in program-history. UC will look to snap its two game slide as it heads into a six game stretch of conference contests. The game, which will be televised on Time Warner Cable Sports, is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. Ithaca will travel to Alfred University next weekend to take on the Saxons at 1 p.m.
Quick Hitters: Benkwitt, who started his 34th consecutive game, is the only quarterback in school-history with 700 or more completions … Benkwitt now has 69 career touchdown passes … Jeremy Meier needs 24 receiving yard to move into second place on the College's all-time receiving yards list … Matt Dunn needs five catches to reach the 100 mark for his career … Dunn needs one touchdown catch to tie for third on the College's all-time receiving touchdowns list – He currently has 11 touchdown catches … Murphy needs 40 yards receiving to move into ninth on the all-time receiving yards list (He currently has 563)… Michael Herberger moved into a tie for sixth place on the College's all-time sacks list (He currently has 6.0).
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