ITHACA, NY--Buffalo State (3-4/1-3) limited host Ithaca (4-2/2-2) to just 253 yards of total offense and forced three Bomber turnovers on route to its first-ever victory in the Empire 8, winning 21-14 today at Butterfield Stadium.
Pasquale Vacchio (Glen Head/North Shore) led the Bengals' defense with nine tackles, and Scott Koen (Oxnard, CA/Santa Clara) had eight. Kam Johnson (Henrietta, NY/Rush-Henrietta) and Mike Burton (Bay Shore, NY/Bellport) each had an interception. Quarterback Casey Kacz (Amherst/Sweet Home) finished 10 of 19 for 134 yards with a pick before being relieved by Ryan Lehotsky (N. Royalton, OH/N. Royalton) who was 5 of 10 for 70 yards and had a touchdown and an interception. The Bengals finished with 365 total yards of offense.
Ithaca quarterback Phil Neumann was 13 of 24 for 155 yards and had a touchdown and two interceptions. Joseph Ingrao had seven catches for 112 yards.
Buffalo State opened the scoring with a 14-play, 91-yard drive on its first possession of the game, capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Manny Brooks (Auburn/Auburn). The Bengals pushed the early lead to 8-0 when they faked the extra point and the holder Lehotsky threw a pass to linebacker Eddie Weiser (Grand Island/Grand Island) for the successful two-point conversion.
After an Ithaca fumble set the Bengals up at the Bombers' 36, Buffalo State pushed its lead to 11-0 with 1:48 remaining in the first quarter with a 27-yard field goal by Nate Benoit (Grand Island/Grand Island).
Ithaca closed the deficit to 11-7 on its next possession early in the second quarter, scoring on a Clay Ardoin 2-yard run, ending a nine-play, 67-yard drive.
After the Bengals missed a 21-yard field goal, Burton's interception and 56-yard return to the Ithaca 15 allowed Benoit to redeem himself from 32 yards and complete the first half scoring, putting Buffalo State in front 14-7 with 52 seconds remaining.
Buffalo State fumbled the opening kickoff of the second half, but the defense answered, as Brian Greene (Syracuse/Liverpool) came up with a sack on a fourth-and-3 play at the Bengals' 23.
After an interception at midfield by Kacz on the very next play, the Bengals' defense answered the bell again, forcing a three-and-out by the Bombers.
Buffalo State earned some breathing room when Lehotsky came off the bench and led a 6-play, 72 yard drive that was highlighted by a 42-yard touchdown to tight end Zachary Best (Henrietta/Rush-Henrietta) midway through the third quarter to extend the Bengals lead to 21-7.
Ithaca drove down to the Bengals 6-yard line on the next possession, but Johnson came up with a huge interception to end the scoring threat.
The Bombers converted a Brian Garvey interception and 31-yard return in the fourth quarter into a score. Neumann connected with Steve Delmore for a 10-yard strike with 10:14 remaining to make the score 21-14.
Ithaca got two more chances with the ball, but the Bengals defense stood tall on both occasions, and Buffalo State was able to run out the final 2:05 of the game.
"We played well at times in all three phases today, but the defense was the big difference," said Buffalo State coach Jerry Boyes. "We gave them a number of opportunities with a short field in the second half, but the defense rose to the occasion and secured the win for us."
Buffalo State will play another conference game on the road next Saturday with it travels to Maryland to take on Frostburg State.