The Utica College football team lost to host Ithaca College 30-6 in Empire 8 Conference action Saturday afternoon at Butterfield Stadium. The Pioneers (5-3, 0-3 E8) could not seem to get their nationally-ranked (21st in total offense) offense going, converting on just 2-of-15 third down opportunities, en route to a season-low 221 yards of total offense.
"Today we finally showed our youth," said third year Head Coach Blaise Faggiano of his squad which
starts nine sophomores. "We could not seem to make the play when we had to. The penalties and turnovers really hurt and a good team like Ithaca is going to take advantage of that."
The Bombers (6-2, 3-1 E8) stingy defense held UC to 21 yards of rushing and recovered five Utica fumbles. The Ithaca offense poured in 21 unanswered points to seal its second straight conference victory.
"Our defense came on strong in the second half but we could not get the offense going today," said Faggiano.
The Pioneer defense held Ithaca scoreless in the final 30 minutes and the Bombers were only able to muster three first downs and 54 yards of total offense in the second half.
The hosts jumped out to a quick 9-0 first quarter lead behind a safety and a six yard touchdown run by senior Dan Ruggiero. UC answered early in the second quarter when sophomore quarterback Andrew Benkwitt completed a 16 yard touchdown pass to junior receiver Josh Mason to cut the Bomber lead to three points, 9-6. Benkwitt closed out the day completing 24 passes for 200 yards and one touchdown. The Pioneers failed to convert on the extra point attempt to preserve the Bombers three point advantage.
Ithaca senior quarterback Rob Zappia marched the Bombers to two consecutive touchdown drives before the half to give IC a 23-6 lead as the halftime horn sounded. Zappia threw touchdowns of 15 and 23 yards to Dan Higgins and Notre Dame High School graduate Dan Ruffrage, respectively, to close out the first half scoring. Zappia finished the day with 215 yards passing and two touchdowns.
The second half was a defensive battle with the lone touchdown coming by way of a Utica fumble returned for a touchdown by the Bombers. UC sophomore running back Jake Scott fumbled and the ball was scooped up by Ithaca's Mike Conti who returned the fumble 12 yards for a score with 40 seconds to go in the third quarter.
Sophomore defensive end James Brain led the Utica defense with nine tackles, while classmate Genaro Scampone added seven tackles. Senior linebacker Kevin Hennion recorded six stops and defensive tackle Adam Luczak made five.
UC freshman receiver and New Hartford native Anthony Acevedo returned to the lineup and caught five balls for a team-high 76 yards, while junior Jeremy Meier added six catches for 45 yards. Mason finished the day with four grabs for 42 yards and one touchdown.
The Pioneers close out their three game road trip next Saturday when they travel to conference foe Hartwick College for an E8 contest at 1 p.m. UC will then return to the friendly confines of Charles A. Gaetano Stadium for its final regular season contest on Nov. 13 as the Pioneers host Alfred University at 1 p.m. UC is 3-1 on its home turf this season.
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