CORTLAND, N.Y. – Cortland's defense held Ithaca on a 4th-down play from inside the 1-yard line with less than 40 seconds remaining and the Red Dragons hung on to defeat the Bombers, 16-10, in the 54th annual "Cortaca Jug" rivalry game. Cortland, ranked 19th nationally by D3football.com and 18th by the AFCA, finishes the regular season with an 8-1 record. The Red Dragons won the Jug for the third straight year – the first time Cortland has won three straight games in the series since a three-game streak from 1966-68.
Cortland had already earned an NCAA Div. III tournament automatic berth after clinching the New Jersey Athletic Conference title Oct. 27. The Red Dragons will open NCAA play on Saturday, Nov. 17. The opponent and location will be announced during a tournament selection show Sunday, Nov. 11, at 6 p.m. on NCAA.com.
Ithaca's Sam Carney (Hanover, NH) returned a punt 38 yards to the Cortland 20-yard line with 2:16 left in the game. Senior Clay Ardoin (Dolgeville), who finished the game with 158 rushing yards on 27 carries, ran 12 yards to the Cortland 8-yard line. Two plays later, Ithaca quarterback Phil Neumann (Burnt Hills/Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake) completed a 6-yard pass to Joseph Ingrao (Nesconset/St. Anthony's) to the 3-yard line, and Ardoin's third-down run was stopped just inside the 1-yard line by a Pete Furey (Niskayuna) tackle with 37.8 seconds left.
On fourth down, Ardoin was forced to the left by a swarming Red Dragon defense and was tackled for a 1-yard loss by Andrew Tolosi (Monroe/Monroe-Woodbury) and Matt Ambrose (Wyckoff, NJ/Ramapo). Cortland was able to run three quarterback sneaks to run out the clock.
Ithaca (6-4) took a 10-0 lead but did not score the final 44 minutes, seven seconds of the game. The Bombers led 3-0 on a Garrett Nicholson (State College, PA/State College Area) 34-yard field goal with 7:57 left in the first quarter. Ardoin broke free for a 50-yard touchdown run with 14:07 remaining in the second quarter to extend the lead to 10.
After each team traded possessions, Cortland drove 78 yards on 15 plays before settling for a 30-yard field goal by junior Mike DeBole (Webster/Webster Schroeder). Ambrose recovered a fumble on the Bombers' next possession at the Ithaca 42-yard line to set up a scoring drive. DeBole hit a 35-yard field goal with 1:05 left and Cortland trailed 10-6 at halftime.
Cortland started its go-ahead drive from its own 46-yard line with 4:19 left in the third quarter following a Justin Autera (Mahopac) 26-yard punt return. The Red Dragons converted on a 4th-and-1 at the Ithaca 28-yard line on a Bronson Greene (Clifton Park/Shenendehowa) 1-yard run. Later in the drive, Chris Rose (Victor) found Mike Humphrey (Le Roy) in the back left corner of the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown pass and Cortland led 13-10 with 14:22 left.
Cortland began its next drive on its own 27-yard line. The Red Dragons lined up for a 44-yard field goal attempt on 4th-and-6 at the Ithaca 26-yard line, but Humphrey, the holder, ran on a fake for a 9-yard gain. The drive eventually culminated in DeBole's third field goal in as many attempts – a 31-yarder – and Cortland led 16-10 with 4:34 remaining.
Rose finished 26-of-36 passing for 212 yards and a touchdown. Kordel McInnis (Sewell, NJ/Washington Township) caught seven passes for 99 yards and Humphrey made seven grabs for 64 yards. Ithaca limited Cortland to 75 rushing yards on 40 carries. DeBole, in addition to his three field goals, averaged 43 yards per punt on six attempts.
Neumann went 18-of-27 through the air for 129 yards for the Bombers. Ingrao made eight catches for 63 yards and punter AJ Vallone (Haworth, NJ/Northern Valley Regional) averaged 44.9 yards on seven kicks.
Andre Green (Philadelphia/Indian River) led Cortland with 10 tackles and a pass breakup and Chris Bright (East Meadow) finished with eight stops.
For Ithaca, Josh Duggan (Highland) recorded 14 tackles, including 1.5 of the Bombers' five sacks. Cortland had allowed only six sacks total over its first eight games. Chris Williams (Johnson City/Binghamton) made 11 tackles, two for losses.
Cortland finished with a 287-272 edge in total offensive yards. The Bombers' second-quarter fumble was the only turnover for either team.