Utica Wins Third Straight - Defeats Ithaca For First Time in Program-History
Utica 20, Ithaca 15 - Box Score
Utica, N.Y. (10/22/11) - The Utica College football team outscored visiting Ithaca College 20-5 in the second half on its way to a 20-15, come-from-behind victory in Empire 8 Conference action at Charles A. Gaetano Stadium Saturday afternoon. Utica engineered a game-winning drive for the second consecutive week, capped by Jake Larson's 15 yard touchdown run with 1:01 left in regulation to help the Pioneers – winners of three games in row – defeat Ithaca for the first time in program-history in front of a state-wide television audience.
The final six minutes of the contest proved to be pivotal, as the lead changed hands twice, with the Pioneers coming out on top as the final horn sounded.
Larson rushed for over 100 yards for the fourth consecutive game and scored all three of the Pioneers' touchdowns, tying the school-record for rushing touchdowns in a single game, to help UC move its record to 5-2 overall and 2-2 in conference play.
"This is a big moment for our program," said Head Coach Blaise Faggiano, who won a national championship during
his playing days at Ithaca College. "We battled back in the face of adversity again, and these are the types of wins that we have been working every week for. We knew we had the talent to win today and it came down to having confidence in the second half. Our guys really stepped up to the plate and they deserve all the credit."
UC's defensive unit set a new school-record with seven sacks on the day, with most of the pressure coming in the form of different blitz packages, including three second half sacks from senior captain Zach Jensen. Three sacks in a single game tied a school-record.
It truly was a tale of two halves as the Bombers jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first 18 minutes of the contest by
controlling the time of possession (21:00) and slowly eating away at the Pioneer defense. Senior captain Matthew Hannon scored the first touchdown of the day for the Bombers, capping a 12-play 61 yard opening drive to put Ithaca on top 7-0 early in the contest.
The Pioneers had five possessions in the first half. The first four resulted in punts and the fifth was a turnover on downs as the first half clock expired. The Bomber defense held Utica to just ten yards rushing in the first half and UC racked up five penalties as the home team found itself trailing 10-0 at the half.
The second half was like night and day for Utica. The Pioneers forced two second half punts and one turnover on downs. They held Ithaca to just 15 rushing yards in the final 30 minutes and the Bombers registered three fourth quarter penalties.
Utica came out of the locker room hot, using a 9-play 68 yard scoring drive to cut the Bomber lead to just three points, 10-3, with 10:55 to go in the third after Larson punched in his first of three touchdowns.
"We played like we are capable of in the second half," said Faggiano. "We stuck to what we are good at and our defense made some huge stops on the goal line."
In fact, the Pioneer defense forced two separate turnovers on downs inside their own five yard line, including a key stop at their own one yard line with 6:35 to go in the game. Unfortunately for the Pioneers' they could not get out of their own end on the ensuing drive and the Bombers' Skyler Schlenker stood Larson up for a safety with 5:54 to go in the game to cut UC's lead to two points, 14-12, late in the fourth.
The Bombers got the ball back and senior kicker Andrew Rogowski drilled a 43 yard field goal with 2:49 left on the clock to give the visitors a one point lead, 15-14.
Junior quarterback Andrew Benkwitt remained poised and ready to strike,choreographing the game-winning drive to perfection, as he guided the Pioneers' to their fifth win of the season – tying last year's win total - which ranks second in program-history. Benkwitt finished the day with 28 completions for 299 yards. Sophomore receiver Jamie Murphy proved to be Benkwitt's favorite target as he caught a game-high nine balls for 97 yards. Junior tight end Matt Dunn added seven catches for 91 yards, while Jeremy Meier caught seven balls for 53 yards. Meier's 110 career catches is tied for third on the College's all-time list.
UC leading tackler Eric Rindo totaled a game-high 12 stops, while sophomore classmate Dana Christofferson posted ten tackles and one sack. Jensen, who recently converted from the wide receiver position, finished the day with seven tackles, three sacks and one quarterback hurry. Defensive linemen Jerrod Clowes and Michael Herberger each added one sack for the UC defense. Herberger now has five sacks on the year.
Joe Gilfedder posted 12 tackles for the Bombers, while Josh Liemer added eight of his own.
UC looks to tie the school-record for wins in a single season next Saturday when it travels to rival St. John Fisher College for a key Empire 8 Conference game at Growney Stadium. The contest is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.
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