NEWARK, DE – The Alfred University Saxons (8-3, 5-2 Empire 8) were named the 2017 James Lynah Bowl Champions following a 29-16 win over Stevenson University in Delaware Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Senior Maleke Fuentes (Olean, NY/Olean) was named the bowl game's Most Valuable Player, rushing for 119 yards and a score. With the performance, Fuentes stands with 2,446 yards rushing in his career - ranking ninth in career rushing yards in AU history. He fell just short of making his way into the top-five career rushing touchdown list, scoring his 24th rushing touchdown at AU. Nick Clark '11 currently stands fifth in career rushing touchdowns with 26.
The Saxons fell behind 3-0 in the opening minutes of the game, but rebounded to score 21 unanswered points in the second quarter. First-year Nas Smith (Auburn, NY/Auburn) broke AU's silence with 13:33 to go in the first half, barreling through the line for an eight yard run to put the Saxons on top 7-3. AU marched 80 yards, burning up over five minutes of play on the drive.
The Mustangs attempted to bounce back on their next drive, passing down into AU territory. However, the steadfast Saxon defense forced a turnover on downs on their own 32-yard line.
Two drives later, AU's first-year Raeqwon Greer (Buffalo, NY/Canisius) read opposing quarterback, Dan Williams' eyes and picked off a pass over the middle, setting the Saxons up with great field position with 3:21 to go in the half. AU converted on the turnover after Fuentes juked his way into the end zone, putting the Saxons up, 14-3.
The Mustangs attempted to get their offense going in the final two minutes of the second half, but it backfired when penalties backed them up to their own end zone. They were forced to punt into the wind and only managed to get the ball out to their own 38-yard line giving the Saxons an opportunity to strike with 48 seconds left in the first half.
AU took to the air on the drive with limited time on the clock. Junior Bryce Morrison (Kennedy, NY/Randolph) hit junior Jayden Gavidia (Homer, NY/Homer) getting the ball down to the Stevenson 19-yard line. One play later, Morrison fired a rope over the middle of the field hitting senior Jake Toomey (Malta, NY/Ballston Spa) in stride, leading him to the touchdown and increasing the Saxon lead, 21-3, heading into the intermission.
Neither team could get their offense moving to start the third stanza. However, the Mustangs finally scored with 14 seconds left in the quarter when Isaiah Thompson jumped through the line for a two-yard run. Stevenson attempted a two-point conversion that backfired when Greer jumped the route and returned the pass the opposite way, giving the Saxons two more points and a 23-9 lead.
AU increased its lead once again on the next drive, parading 54 yards over five minutes to score. Earlier in the drive, Morrison and Gavidia connected on a third-and-four play, keeping the drive alive. Gavidia caught another pass on the sideline for 24 yards, putting the Saxons in the red zone. Then AU turned back to the run-game which made its way into the end zone when Smith followed lead-blocker E.J. Staniszewski (South Wales, NY/Holland) for a one-yard run. The Saxons maintained a 29-9 lead with 10 minutes to go in the game.
The Mustangs attempted to the comeback in the final minutes of the contest, scoring once. However, the AU defense stalled the response when senior Ty Timmerman (Corning, NY/Corning East) sacked Williams, setting up second-and-long. The responsibility was absorbed by the secondary on the next three plays, which forced a turnover on downs, sealing the win, 29-16.
The Saxons amassed 314 yards of total offense on the day, including 174 yards rushing and 140 yards through the air. Fuentes led AU with 119 yards on the ground while Smith chipped in with 66 yards and two touchdowns.
Morrison was efficient through the air on 10-of-15 (75.0%) passing and one touchdown. He connected with Gavidia six times for 87 yards, leading the team.
Junior linebacker Cole Reed (Gratz, PA/Upper Dauphin Area) led the defense with 11 tackles (seven solo; four assisted) while fellow linebackers Nick Milgate (Hilton, NY/Hilton) and A.J. LiCata (Lake View, NY/Frontier) added nine (four solo; five assisted) and eight (five solo; three assisted) tackles, respectively. LiCata closed his career as the all-time lead tackler in AU history with 412 total tackles.
Sophomore defensive lineman Leo Pamphile (Spring Valley, NY/Spring Valley) led the team with two tackles for a loss, including one sack and a forced fumble. Senior Toby Hale (Swampscott, MA/Swampscott) had 1.5 tackles for a loss. Greer had two interceptions to lead AU.
Senior Trevor Monk (Liverpool, NY/Liverpool) punted three times, pinning the Mustangs in their own 20-yard line once. He also kicked off five times for 278 yards (55.0 yards per attempt) and one touchback. Monk completed his career hitting 24 field goals as a four-year kicker. He kicked his longest field goal (43 yards) at home against Utica earlier this year. He fell only 18 career PAT's short of tying the school record, which is currently held by Eric Rockwood '11 (169). He currently stands tied (with Rockwood) for the most extra points made in a season (56) in AU history and tied for the most extra points made in a game (9) in the Empire 8 – a feat he completed last week against Hartwick College. He also holds the AU record for most points scored by kicking in a season (89 in 2016).
With the win, the Saxons are now 10-2 in ECAC bowl games dating back to 1986. They are also 14-6 in all postseason appearances (including NCAA and ECAC postseason appearances) dating back to 1981.