ALFRED, NY – The Alfred University defense forced three turnovers and held visiting Buffalo State to 116 second-half yards in a 21-3 Empire 8 Conference victory Saturday afternoon at Yunevich Stadium.
AU sophomore linebacker Nick Milgate posted a pair of sacks and had one of two interceptions for the Saxons, and sophomore quarterback Casey Boston, getting his first collegiate start, tossed two touchdowns and ran for another as the Saxons piled up 350 yards of offense.
Buff State came into the game averaging more than 35 points per contest, and while the Bengals did accumulate 300 yards of offense (under their 360 per-game average), the three turnovers helped limit their scoring opportunities.
"I loved what I saw from our defense today," said AU head coach Bob Rankl. "Early on in the first half they converted a couple of third-and-longs and some fourth downs. We need to clean that up but besides that, I think they played a really good football game and am happy with how they performed overall."
AU, ranked 20 in the D3football.com Top 25, held a slim 7-3 lead at the half before scoring twice after intermission while shutting out the visitors. With the win over the previously unbeaten Bengals, the Saxons improve to 4-0 (2-0 Empire 8), while Buff State falls to 3-1 (1-1 E8).
The first quarter was scoreless, with each team possessing the ball just once before turning the ball over in the opponent's territory. AU took the opening kick and marched to the Bengal 35 before Boston was intercepted at the Buff State 5-yard line. The Bengals then drove to Alfred's 33 before turning the ball over on downs.
The second quarter was more of the same, until the Saxons broke through on their final possession of the first half. Starting at their own 23-yard line, Alfred drove 77 yards in 11 plays, with Boston hitting with junior wide receiver Jayden Gavidia with a 10-yard TD pass with 1:25 left. Buff State got its only points of the game on the ensuing drive, going 64 yards in nine plays, with Justin Simoncelli booting a 28-yard field goal as the first-half clock expired.
The third quarter was scoreless, with Milgate intercepting Kyle Hoppy at the AU 34 on Buff State's opening drive of the second half. The team's exchanged punts and on Alfred's second possession of the third quarter, the Saxons marched to the Bengal 4-yard line before the third-quarter clock expired. On the first play from scrimmage in the fourth, Boston rushed four yards into the endzone to put AU up 14-3 four seconds into the final frame.
Buff State punted the ball away on its next possession and Alfred started its drive at its own 21. Eleven plays later, Boston connected again with Gavidia, this time from 24 yards out, to put Alfred on top, 21-3, with 6:01 left.
AU recovered a fumble at the Buff State 32-yard line on the ensuing kickoff, but fumbled the ball right back on the Saxons' first play from scrimmage. On its final drive, Buff State went 63 yards in nine plays to the Alfred 9-yard line before AU sophomore cornerback Kyle Moore picked off Hoppy in the endzone. It was Moore's team-leading third interception of the season.
Boston completed 11 of 16 passes for 153 yards, a pair of TDs and an interception, while Gavidia caught five passes for 89 yards and senior wide receiver Rodney Etienne caught three for 46 yards. Senior tailback Maleke Fuentes ran for 109 yards on 22 carries and first-year tailback Nas Smith ran for 52 yards on 10 attempts.
"We were moving the football offensively in the first half we kind of came up short on a couple of plays here and took a couple minus-yards plays that we need to clean up," Rankl said. "Besides that, we came out in the second half and the guys were committed to running the football and we came up with some big games in the passing game so we were able to put some points up on the board."
Hoppy finished with 200 yards on 14-of-23 passing with two interceptions. Ricky Bailey had a game-high eight catches for 107 yards and Had Bryant caught three balls for 57 yards. Austin Neal was the Bengals' top runner, with 47 yards on 11 carries.
Milgate tallied a team-high 10 tackles to go with his second interception in two games, while senior linebacker A.J. LiCata and junior linebacker Cole Reed each had nine. First-year defensive end Tyler White had seven tackles (one for loss) and senior end Toby Hale had a sack and 2 ½ tackles for loss among his four stops.
Dametrius Brown had a game-high 13 tackles (one for loss) and Bart Mazzara hads 12 to lead the Buff State defense.
Alfred is in action next on Saturday, Oct. 7, at 4 p.m. at Empire 8 rival St. John Fisher.