Cortland Wins Fifth Straight Cortaca Jug After Wild TD Pass on Final Play

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CORTLAND, N.Y. - Holder Luke Hinton (Lockport) threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to receiver Jon Mannix (Elwood/John H. Glenn) on the final play of the game after a botched field goal snap to lift Cortland to an improbable 23-20 win over nationally 23rd-ranked Ithaca in the 56th Annual Cortaca Jug game.

Cortland (5-5) wins the Cortaca Jug for the fifth straight year, matching the Red Dragons' longest win streak versus the Bombers originally accomplished in a five-year stretch from 1955-59, with the last of those wins coming in the inaugural Cortaca Jug game.

Trailing 20-17, Cortland started its final drive on its own 49-yard line with 1:35 remaining and no timeouts left. The Red Dragons used all of their second-half timeouts while forcing an Ithaca three-and-out. On 2nd-and-5 at the Ithaca 46-yard line, John Grassi (Oceanside) completed a 35-yard pass to Jack Delahunty (East Northport) to the Ithaca 11.

Dylan Peebles (Port Leyden/South Lewis), who finished the game with two touchdowns, carried the ball three straight times – the first two for gains of three and four yards and the third for no gain. With time winding down, Cortland raced out its field goal unit for a potential game-tying 20-yard field goal.

Hinton, however, was late getting out on the field, and then was looking back at the kicker during the snap with five seconds left. He recovered to grab the ball and briefly considered trying to place the ball for the kick, but decided against it and rolled out to the left. Mannix – one of the wings on the play – broke free on the left side of the end zone and Hinton threw his first collegiate pass for the game-winning score.

Cortland overcame a 14-0 Ithaca lead – matching the largest successful comeback by a team in Cortaca Jug history set by Cortland's 1999 squad that trailed 21-7 at halftime before winning 26-21. The Empire 8 champion Bombers (7-3) scored on their first possession after Sam Carney's (Hanover, NH) 48-yard punt return to the Cortland 13-yard line. Tom Dempsey (Andover, MA) threw a 2-yard TD pass to Ben Cary (Marlboro, NJ) three plays later and Ithaca led 7-0.

Ithaca drove 54 yards on nine plays between the end of the first quarter and start of the second quarter and scored on Josh Oliver's (Poughkeepsie) 4-yard TD run around the left end with 11:56 left in the half. Oliver finished with 99 rushing yards on 26 carries.

Cortland got on the board later in the second quarter with a 7-play, 39-yard TD drive. The Red Dragons converted a 4th-and-2 from the Ithaca 31-yard line with an 8-yard pass from Lou Buschi (East Meadow) to K.J. Zinermon (Buffalo/Sweet Home), and a roughing the passer call on a 2nd-down incompletion moved the ball to the 12-yard line. Peebles covered the rest of the distance on two rushes, the last from eight yards out, and the Red Dragons trailed 14-7.

Tristan Laurore (Brooklyn/Boys & Girls) intercepted a pass on Ithaca's next possession to give Cortland the ball at the Bombers' 44-yard line. Grassi hit Bryan Providence (Valley Stream/Valley Stream South) on a 13-yard pass and John Babin (Warwick/Warwick Valley) on a 27-yard completion to move the ball to the 4-yard line, but the Red Dragons eventually settled for a Shane Cronin (West Nyack/Clarkstown South) 29-yard field goal with 1:24 left and Ithaca led 14-10 at halftime.

Near the end of the third quarter, Ithaca started a drive at its own 32-yard line. Dempsey's 46-yard pass to Chris Bauer (Kinnelon, NJ) on 3rd-and-5 moved the ball to the Cortland 6-yard line. The Bombers eventually had a 3rd-and-goal at the 1-yard line, but Jake Ceresna (New Fairfield, CT) tackled Oliver for a 4-yard loss and Garrett Nicholson's (State College, PA/State College Area) 22-yard field goal put Ithaca up 17-10.

Peebles, however, returned the ensuing kickoff 91 yards for the game-tying touchdown. Peebles extended his school single-season record for kickoff return scores to three and now has four in his two years with the Red Dragons. He finished the game with 186 yards on five kickoff returns in addition to his rushing touchdown.

After the teams traded possessions, Ithaca started on the Cortland 47-yard line and quickly took advantage of an unnecessary roughness call to move the ball to the 30. Cortland's defense held in the red zone later in the drive and Nicholson nailed a 32-yard field goal left to put the Bombers ahead 20-17.

Cortland failed to record a first down on its next possession and with just over two minutes left elected to punt. The Red Dragons held Ithaca to a combined four yards on three runs to get the ball back for its final winning drive.

Grassi was 15-of-21 for 135 yards and two picks for Cortland. Babin and Zinermon each caught four passes, with Babin tying the school career record with 170 receptions set by Steve Ellis from 1991-94. Ceresna and Matt Ambrose (Wyckoff, NJ/Ramapo) led the defense with 11 tackles each and Tyler Anderson (Sayville) made 10 stops. Laurore and Troy Beddoe (Endicott/Union-Endicott) each had interceptions.

Dempsey finished 21-of-31 passing for 187 yards and a score and was intercepted twice for the Bombers. Vito Boffoli (Hopewell Junction/John Jay) caught seven passes for 57 yards and Bauer had six catches for 85 yards. Schnayder Termidor (Elmont/Sewanhaka) finished with eight tackles, 1.5 for losses, and a forced fumble. Malik Morris (New Hyde Park/Sewanhaka) and Carney each intercepted passes.

Cortland won despite being outgained 316-183 in total offense and Ithaca holding a 37:21-22:39 advantage in time of possession (20:38-9:22 in the second half). The Red Dragons were 0-of-12 on 3rd-down conversions, but 2-of-2 on fourth down, while Ithaca was 4-of-16 on third down.

Cortland will await a potential ECAC bowl berth, while Ithaca will play in the NCAA tournament opening round against an opponent to be announced next Saturday.

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Dec. 14: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Mount Union at Mary Hardin-Baylor
@ Woodforest Bank Stadium; Shenandoah, Texas
Audio Preview Video Tickets