Alfred University Falls to Ithaca Despite Halftime Lead

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ALFRED, NY – The Alfred University football team (1-1, Empire 0-0) fell to nonconference opponent Ithaca College, 21-13, in Yunevich Stadium on Saturday afternoon despite taking a 13-0 lead into the half.
The Saxons, who went to the ground and pound during week one of the 2018 season, relied more on the passing game against Ithaca. Junior quarterback Ben Burk (Lakewood, NY/Southwestern Central) played the entire game under center, throwing for 189 yards and two touchdowns on 17-of-37 (45.9%) passing. Both touchdowns were thrown to first year Robert Smith Jr. (Rochester, NY/Greece Athena) who accumulated 124 yards receiving.
Sophomore Nas Smith (Auburn, NY/Auburn) and Burk paced AU on the ground with 36 and 28 yards rushing, respectively. The Saxons wrapped up the game with 70 yards rushing.
Defensively, Junior Nick Milgate (Hilton, NY/Hilton) and senior Cole Reed (Gratz, PA/Upper Dauphin Area) paced the Saxons with 18 tackles (eight solo; 10 assisted) and 17 tackles (seven solo; 10 assisted), respectively. Milgate is now tied for eighth all-time at AU for tackles in a game while Reed is ranked 10th all-time. John Hoosock '90currently holds the record with 28 tackles in a game against Canisius in 1990. Reed added one interception, that he returned for 34 yards, and one pass break up.
Sophomore Raeqwon Greer (Buffalo, NY/Canisius) had a standout game on defense, racking up seven tackles and an interception, denying a Bomber touchdown. Senior Lewis Ortega (Bronx, NY/Herbert H. Lehman) also had a great day in the secondary, breaking up two passes.
The Saxons jumped out to an early 6-0 lead on their first drive when Burk hit Robert Smith Jr. for an 83-yard touchdown pass down the sideline. The extra point attempt was no good following the score.
The Bombers attempted to answer two drives later when they recovered a fumble on the AU 40-yard line. Ithaca continued to march down the field until they got into the red zone. The Bombers attempted three rushes that were quickly shut down, with the Saxons limiting them to only seven yards. Ithaca attempted to convert on fourth down but was unable as Ortega tore down the Bomber receiver for only a one-yard gain. The Saxons took over on downs at their own five-yard line, keeping the game at 6-0.
The Saxons increased the lead in the second quarter despite going three-and-out on their second drive. Burk punted the ball down the field where the Ithaca player dropped the ball on the play. Sophomore Ryan Elliott (Northport, NY/Northport) recovered the fumble, setting AU up on the 21-yard line.
After back-to-back one-yard gains, Burk hit Robert Smith Jr. for a 19-yard touchdown. Robert Smith Jr. wrangled in the pass despite a hard collision from two Bomber defenders. Junior Ben Sennett (Rushville, NY/Marcus Whitman) tacked on the extra point, giving the Saxons the 13-0 lead.
The next AU drive started with the Saxons pinned on their own 10-yard line. Burk was intercepted on the third play at the 24-yard line, setting Ithaca up with threatening field position. However, the AU defense stepped up again intercepting the ball on the first play of Ithaca's drive. Peter Palczewski tested Greer with a high ball in the corner, that Greer ripped down in the end zone. He took the ball out of the end zone for a 20-yard return.
The Bombers threatened once again after pushing the ball down the field on the ground. Finally, with 1:49 left in the half, Brian Fallon attempted to kick a field goal that resulted in a miss due to a low snap. Once again, the Saxon defense denied a score, taking a 13-0 lead into the intermission.
Ithaca scored on its first possession in the second half, marching 81 yards on 14 plays over 5:12.  Isaiah D'Haiti bounced off multiple defenders before scoring from eight yards out. Fallon converted the PAT, bringing the game to 13-7.
AU stalled out on the next two drives, before the Bombers scored again, only three minutes into the fourth quarter. Wahid Nabi connected with Andrew Vito, knotting the game up at 13-13. Fallon chipped the extra point in, giving the Bombers the lead.
The Saxons struggled again on the next drive before the Bombers killed the clock with a 12-play, 64-yard drive that lasted 6:33. The AU defense remained undaunted in the red zone, denying the Bombers a touchdown, despite facing five plays inside the 10-yard line. The drive ended when Nabi's pass over the middle was batted down by Reed.
With 3:55 remaining the game, the Saxons took over on their own 2-yard line. Burk connected with Jayden Gavidia (Homer, NY/Homer) for five yards on second down and attempted again on third down. However, the pass was incomplete before AU was saved by a defensive pass interference play. Despite multiple completions, the Saxons were unable to march down the field, turning the ball over on downs at the six-yard line. The Bombers ran down the clock before scoring their final touchdown, closing the game 21-13.
"I was disappointed with our second half performance in all three phases of the game. We were up 13-0 at halftime with a lot of momentum on our side and we came out and didn't execute very well."
The Saxons will look to recover next weekend they play host to Empire 8 opponent, SUNY Cortland, during homecoming weekend. Kickoff will be at 1PM with Hall of Fame ceremonies occurring at halftime.

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