Utica Comes From Behind in Fourth Quarter to Defeat Hartwick 20-17

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Utica 20, Hartwick 17 - Box Score

Utica, N.Y. (10/15/2011) – Junior quarterback Andrew Benkwitt engineered a nine-play, 71 yard game-winning drive, capped by a 16-yard touchdown grab by senior wide out Jeremy Meier with 1:04 remaining, to help lift the Utica College football team to a huge 20-17 win over visiting Hartwick College Saturday.  Hartwick actually had a chance to tie the game up on the ensuing drive, but Harley Edwards' 50 yard field goal attempt with one second left on the clock fell short, much to the delight of the Pioneers homecoming crowd. 

"That's a big win for us on homecoming weekend against a very good team.  I wanted to congratulate coach Will Pluff and the defensive unit for really keeping us in the game today," said fourth year Head Coach Blaise Faggiano. "Our guys answered in the face of adversity again and this is the type of win that helps us gain momentum headed into a big contest against Ithaca next weekend. It was a total team effort today and I am very proud of our entire program."

Utica, which trailed for the entire game, moved its

Whitesboro's Alex Rukavena made a career-high 12 tackles for the UC defense

record to 4-2 overall and they picked up their first conference victory of the year.  Hartwick lost its second straight 3-point game, as the Hawks overall record fell to 2-4 on the season. 

Junior running back Jake Larson posted his third straight 100 yard rushing effort, tallying 163 yards on the ground, to go along with two touchdowns.  Junior tight tend Matt Dunn caught a career-high nine balls, while Benkwitt finished the day with 30 completions for 298 yards and one key touchdown throw to Meier on the Pioneers' final drive of the game. 

Hartwick's Anthony Casimano carried the ball 39 times for 226 yards, and added a key 74 yard touchdown scamper to put the visitors on top 14-6 early in the third quarter. The Pioneers answered by outscoring the Hawks 14-3 in the final 13:57 of play to earn the three point victory.

"Our guys never gave up and as a coaching staff that is one of the biggest things we are looking for," said Faggiano. "We are going to enjoy this one for tonight and get right back after it tomorrow."

Hartwick opened the scoring on the day in the first quarter when quarterback Dan Brainard hooked up with all-conference receiver Jordan Wilkins on a 15-yard touchdown to give the Hawks an early 7-0 lead.  Brainard finished the day with 147 yards passing on 12 completions, while Wilkins caught a team-high four balls for 65 yards. 

The Pioneers answered at the 10:10 mark of the second quarter when Larson plunged in his first touchdown of the day, but 25 mile per hour winds sent UC kicker Seth Mitchell's extra point attempt wide right, to help the Hawks remain on top, 7-6.

A first half fumble and a missed field goal halted two of the Pioneers first half drives and the score remained 7-6 after 30 full minutes of play.   

Larson added his team-best seventh touchdown run of the season early in the final quarter to help lead the Pioneers' fourth quarter charge.  Hartwick kicker Alex Tesoriero added a 34 yard field goal to give the Hawks a five point lead with 8:40 remaining in the contest. 

The Pioneers turned the ball over on downs on their next possession, but the UC defense kept them in the game by forcing a 4-and-out on the Hawks ensuing drive.  This huge stop is what led to the Pioneers' game-winning fourth quarter drive. 

Sophomore linebacker Alex Rukavena racked up a career-high 12 tackles for Utica, while Genaro Scampone added one interception.  Junior nose guard Cody Adams also tacked on a key sack late in the game to help secure the Pioneer victory.  Sophomore safety Eric Rindo made nine stops, while freshman Xavier Richardson added a career-best nine tackles as well for the UC defensive unit. 

Jordan Spirou, the Hawks leading tackler, had another huge day, totaling a game-high 18 tackles, while four other Hartwick defenders posted 10+ tackles. 

Utica returns home next Saturday when it hosts Empire 8 rival Ithaca College for a key Empire 8 Conference game at Charles A. Gaetano Stadium.  Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.  Fans who cannot make it out to the contest can watch the game live on their local Time Warner Cable Sports television station or visit http://www.twcs.tv/ for a link to live streaming video of the contest. 

Hartwick returns to the gridiron next Saturday when it hosts nationally-ranked Salisbury for an Empire 8 contest at 1 p.m.

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