ALFRED, NY – The Alfred University football team (5-3, Empire 8 4-2) returned to its winning ways in convincing fashion on Saturday, defeating the Hawks of Hartwick College, 41-3, in Empire 8 play.
The Saxons defense was the key in the game, holding the Hawks to just three points and 149 yards of total offense. On top of only allowing two yards rushing against, the defensive unit also picked off opposing QB's five times and sacked them twice. Sophomore Ryan Elliott (Northport, NY/Northport) had two interceptions in the game, returning them for a combined 37 yards. Fellow sophomore Raymond Johnson (Binghamton, NY/Binghamton) provided the pressure off the defensive end, racking up 2.0 sacks in the game.
Senior Cole Reed (Gratz, PA/Upper Dauphin Area) continued his stellar season with a team-high 10 total tackles, including a tackle for a loss on a goalline stand at the end of the game. Reed currently leads the Empire 8 with 95 tackles during the 2018 season – 15 more than any other player in the conference.
Offensively, the Saxons were firing on all cylinders, finding pay dirt through the air and on the ground. Junior Ben Burk (Lakewood, NY/Southwestern) threw for 217 yards and two touchdowns on 14-of-18 (77.8%) passing. Sophomore Nas Smith (Auburn, NY/Auburn) rushed 14 times for a total of 64 yards (4.4 YPC) and two touchdowns. Fellow sophomore Kevin Bragaglia (Holbrook, NY/Sachem North) had one rushing touchdown from 25 yards out to accompany his 30-yard receiving touchdown from Burk. Senior Chris Harders (Shirley, NY/Longwood) caught Burk's other touchdown from 11 yards out, tallying his second touchdown of the year.
The Saxons wasted no time to get out on top of the Hawks, scoring on their first possession when Bragaglia rushed in from 25 yards out – his second rushing touchdown of the year. Five minutes later, junior Ben Sennett (Rushville, NY/Marcus Whitman) hit his fourth field goal in two weeks from 25 yards. On Hartwick's next drive, Elliott nabbed his first pick of the day, returning the ball to the Hartwick two-yard line. Smith made easy work of the drive, punching the ball in on the first play from scrimmage. At the close of the first quarter, the Saxons held onto a 17-0 lead.
In the second quarter, Hartwick found some reprieve, forcing a fumble and recovering the ball on the AU 31-yard line. The Hawks slowly moved down the field, pushing as deep as the three-yard line. However, the Saxons maintained a bend-don't-break mentality and forced the field goal, bringing the game to 17-3.
Two drives later, following a turnover-on-downs when Johnson sacked Grant Harman, the Saxons increased the lead through the air. The first play from scrimmage was a 23-yard pass from Burk to first-year Steven Moretti-Ransom (Ontario, NY/Wayne). The second play was a 30-yard bomb from Burk to Bragaglia – who scored his second receiving touchdown in as many weeks. Closing out the half, the Saxons tacked on another three points when Sennett hit a field goal from 25 yards out. AU held on to a 27-3 lead at the break.
The third quarter saw little action as both teams pushed deep into the other's territory but found no way to score. Senior Kyle Moore (Roosevelt, NY/Roosevelt) picked off Harman with 5:04 to go in the third, setting the Saxons up for a scoring drive. Starting on their own 28-yard line, the Saxons methodically moved down the field, picking up four first downs, closing out the quarter. Four seconds into the fourth quarter, the Saxons capitalized on their long drive when Burk found Harders in the end zone. The Saxons held on to a 34-3 lead with 14:56 to go in the game.
Three plays later, junior Nick Milgate (Hilton, NY/Hilton) was taking the ball in the opposite direction, picking off Bryce Mancina at the AU 35-yard line. The Saxons were unable to capitalize on the turnover, punting the ball away. However, on the next drive, the AU defense forced a turnover when sophomore Caleb Marshall (Owego, NY/Owego Free Academy) fell on top of a fumble, setting AU with great field position. The Saxons scored three plays later when Smith rushed the ball in from 16-yards out. Both teams quickly dispatched the clock, closing out the game 41-3.
AU entered the game ranked second in the nation in passes intercepted (15), trailing only Wisconsin-Oshkosh who had 16 entering Saturday. Following the games, AU has 20 interceptions, surpassing UW-Oshkosh (18). Sophomore Raeqwon Greer (Buffalo, NY/Canisius) pulled down his fourth interception of the year (team-high), tying the lead in the Empire 8.
The Saxons now turn their attention to St. John Fisher College next week in Yunevich Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 1PM.