Utica 51, Buffalo State 44 - Final
The Utica College football team scored 30 fourth quarter points, as it rallied from a 15 point deficit with 9:50 to go in the contest, to earn a huge come-from-behind victory over host Buffalo State in Empire 8 Conference action at Coyer Field on Saturday. With the scored tied at 44-44 late in the fourth quarter, Utica's Chris Adams sacked Bengal quarterback Casey Kacz, forcing a pivotal fumble which was ultimately recovered by Cedric Hairston with just 34 seconds left in regulation. Hairston's recovery set up a four-play, 60 yard, game-winning drive in just 21 seconds, capped by senior wide receiver Jeremy Meier's touchdown grab with 13 seconds left on the clock to advance UC's record to 3-2 on the year and 1-1 E8 play.
"This was certainly a thrilling win for our program against a very good Buffalo State team who has won some big games this year," said Head Coach Blaise Faggiano. "This was one of the most exciting games that I have ever been a part of
Buffalo State (2-4, 0-3 Empire 8), which knocked off the nation's No. 1 team, Wisconsin-Whitewater, three short weeks ago, has now lost three consecutive games.
Senior quarterback Andrew Benkwitt led the way for UC with a single-game record 38 completions for 398 yards and another school-record six touchdown throws. Meier continued his banner year with a program-best 12 catches for 148 yards and a school-record four receiving touchdowns, including two in the final 2:47 of the contest (three in the fourth quarter). Junior receiver Jamie Murphy also caught 11 balls for 115 yards and a touchdown.
All six of the Bengals touchdowns came by way of the ground game, including three from nearby Proctor High School graduate Rich Pete, a sophomore running back, who finished the day with 10 carries for 60 yards. Buff State's Casey Kacz completed 18 passes for 288 yards and also ran the ball eight times for 49 yards and one touchdown, while Manny Brooks rushed 12 times for 67 yards and two scores.
Eight different Pioneers' caught at least one pass from Benwkitt, while junior running back Jesse Baldassare carried the ball 22 times for 68 yards and one touchdown.
"This was a much need conference win headed into homecoming weekend and we are excited to come back home next weekend to take on Frostburg," said Faggiano. "What an incredible effort on both sides of the ball - I just can't say enough about how proud I am of the effort today. "
After the Pioneers punted on their opening possession, the UC defense came through on their very first play as sophomore safety James Lenahan picked off the Bengals first pass of the game. Lenahan later added another key interception at the end of the third quarter to spark the Pioneers' late rally. He now has a team-best four interceptions this year. Four plays and 37 yards after the first Lenahan INT the Pioneers drew first blood, cracking the goal line by way of Meiers' 25 yard touchdown reception from Benkwitt, to put UC on top 7-0.
The UC defense held strong in the first quarter, forcing three straight punts. The second quarter proved to be much different, as the two conference foes combined for 30 points, to provide the raucous Buffalo State crowd with much to cheer for. The Pioneers jumped out to a 14-0 lead when Jamie Murphy caught a short touchdown grab from Benkwitt to open the second quarter scoring.
That's when the home squad began to take it personal and turned up the offensive pressure, scoring 16 points before the half, including two straight touchdowns, to pull the Bengals to within five points at the half. The second quarter included two touchdowns for the home team -- and a key field goal -- amongst the blustering winds, as time expired in the first half. Buff State running back Rich Pete punched in the Bengals first score from one yard out, before Manny Brooks made it a 14-13 ball game with 5:28 left in the half. UC freshman Nick Woodman, a 6-foot-5 defensive end from Proctor High School, blocked the ensuing extra point to help UC cling to a one point lead.
Buffalo continued to roll in the second half, scoring 21 straight third quarter points to take a commanding 37-21 lead into the final 15 minutes of action. However, Utica would not go down without swinging, as the Pioneers began their surge with a ten yard touchdown grab from Meier just five seconds into the final quarter.
Rich Pete answered for Buff State with a one yard touchdown run to push the Bengal lead back to 15 points, 44-29, with 9:50 to go in regulation. Just 50 seconds later freshman wide receiver Alex DeRusso caught his first touchdown grab from Benkwitt to breathe life into the Pioneer nation.
Both teams exchanged punts before Meier caught his third touchdown of the day, a circus-style one handed (left hand) grab in the end zone to knot the score at 44-44 with 2:47 left.
"I've never seen a catch quite like the one Meier made today to tie the game up," said Faggiano. "So many different players stepped up today – it was just amazing to be a part of."
Buffalo State tried its own game-winning drive, but the Adam's sack and Hairston fumble recovery led to the game-winning drive and one of the most incredible come backs in the program's 12+ year history.
Junior outside linebacker Joe Giametta led the Pioneers for the fifth straight game with 11 tackles, while senior Luke Manolescu added nine tackles and one sack. Shawn Mitchell made eight stops and recovered a fumble for UC, while senior captain Genaro Scampone made eight tackles, including two for a loss.
The Pioneers return to the gridiron next Saturday at home against Frostburg State for an Empire 8 Conference contest set to begin at 2 p.m.
Quick Hitters: The Pioneers posted more points in the first half on the Buffalo State defense than national powers Salisbury and Wisconsin-Whitewater recorded in their entire contests against the typically staunch Bengal defense … Utica broke or tied 15 different school-records in the contest.
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