St. John Fisher College forced six turnovers to pace the Cardinals to a 17-3 win over No. 10 Alfred University in an early, yet pivotal, Empire 8 Conference football matchup on Saturday at Fisher's Growney Stadium.
With the win, Fisher improves to 3-1 overall and 1-0 in the Empire 8, while Alfred, ranked 10th in the national coaches poll, falls to 3-1, 1-1. The Saxons entered the contest on a seven-game winning streak in Empire 8 action, dating back to 2009.
In addition to forcing six turnovers (four interceptions, two fumbles), the Fisher defense broke up eight passes and made seven tackles for losses. Alfred, who entered the contest averaging 38 points per game, out-gained Fisher 274-215 for the game, but the Cardinals capitalized on excellent field position throughout the day.
It was a defensive battle throughout the first half.
Fisher fumbled the ball on the game's first play from scrimmage, giving the Saxons possession at the Fisher 29. The Cardinals' defense, however, forced one of three first-half turnovers with Adam Burdick returning an interception 52 yards.
Chad Monheim scored the only points of the first half, drilling a 42-yarder with 10:32 left in the second quarter to give the Cardinals a 3-0 lead at the break.
Alfred tied the game on the opening possession of the second half. The Saxons drove to the Fisher 24 before Eric Rockwood kicked a 41-yard field goal, knotting the game at 3-3 with 10:28 left to play in the third.
The Saxons appeared ready to take the lead on its next possession and had the ball with first-and-goal inside the Fisher 10, but quarterback Tom Secky fumbled the shot-gun snap and Mason Judd, who also batted down three passes during the game, pounced on the ball, ending the drive.
Fisher scored the game's only two touchdowns in a 2:37 span. After a 10-yard punt by Alfred, the Cardinals gained possession at the Alfred 27 with 1:39 left in the third. Three plays later, quarterback Ryan Kramer hit Ryan Schmidt on a crossing pattern and the senior receiver broke free and delivered the go-ahead score from 25 yards out.
On the ensuing possession, safety Wade Kline intercepted Secky's pass at the Alfred 20 and returned in to the 16.
On a third-and-goal play from the Alfred 6, Kramer lofted the ball into the right corner of the endzone and freshman Nathan Nigolian made his first career reception a memorable one, making a juggling grab to put the Cardinals up two scores with 13:35 left in the game.
The defense kept the Saxons at bay for the remainder of the game. Troy Sant, making his first career start at cornerback, intercepted a pass in the Fisher endzone with 12 minutes left. With just under six minutes left, the Fisher defense stuffed fullback Nick Clark for no gain on a fourth-down play at the Fisher 7.
Secky was 12-for-27 for 96 yards with four interceptions. Running back Tyler DeRosa ran the ball 20 times for 130 yards, while Austin Dwyer, who entered the game averaging 123 yards, gained just 17 yards on 10 carries.
Josh Phillips led the Saxons with seven catches fo 50 yards.
Kramer completed 10-of-20 passes for 119 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He also ran the ball 30 yards on 14 carries. FuQuan Borum rushed for 43 yards on 12 carries, while Cody Miller gained 25 yards on six attempts
Schmidt finished the day with five catches for 78 yards.
Defensively, Dave Vosburgh finished with 13 tackles and a forced fumble. Travis Tones added nine tackles and one forced fumble, while Chris Sawyer and Kline each made eight stops. Sawyer also registered Fisher's lone sack of the day. Brenden Moore was in on seven stops and made an interception late in the first half.
Fisher will return to action at 1 p.m. next Saturday at Ithaca College. It will be Fisher's first true road game of the year. The Cardinals have played three games at home this year and one neutral site contest, a 52-3 win over University of Rochester at Sahlen's Stadium in Courage Bowl VII in downtown Rochester.