CORTLAND, N.Y. – Sophomore John Babin (Warwick Valley) caught eight passes for 77 yards and a touchdown and freshman Bronson Greene (Clifton Park/Shenenedehowa) rushed for two scores as Cortland took a 23-6 halftime lead and the Red Dragons held on to defeat The College of New Jersey, 23-20, in a New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) contest.
Cortland improved to 6-2, both overall and in the NJAC, while TCNJ s now 5-3 overall and 4-3 in the conference.
Senior linebackers Cody Allen (Medina) and Bill Smith (Nanuet) led Cortland with 14 tackles apiece. Allen finished with 2.5 tackles for losses, including 1.5 sacks, and forced a fumble. Freshman Jesse Scanna (Holbrook/Sachem North) totaled two sacks. Quarterback Dan Pitcher (Cortland) completed 17-of-28 passes for 154 yards, senior Dorian Myles (Lackawanna/Hamburg) ran for 64 yards and Greene finished with 33 yards rushing.
TCNJ senior quarterback James Donoghue (Shamong, NJ/Seneca) finished 21-of-36 passing for 246 yards and two touchdowns, but was sacked six times. Junior Glenn Grainger (Island Heights, NJ/Holmdel) caught eight passes for 120 yards and two scores and junior Matthew Rosati (Bayonne, NJ) finished with six receptions for 62 yards.
TCNJ sophomore linebacker Nick Bricker (Middletown, NJ/Middletown South) improved on his status at the NJAC's tackle leader. He finished with 22 tackles, 13 solo, with two tackles for losses and a fumble recovery. Junior linebacker Greg Burns (Hamilton, NJ/Hamilton West) made 11 stops and senior defensive back Shawn Brown (Long Branch, NJ) finished with nine tackles, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. He recorded 2.5 tackles for losses, including a sack.
Special teams play was a factor in much of the first half scoring. TCNJ started the game's opening drive on its own 3-yard line after a returner slipped catching the kickoff. On fourth down at the 11-yard line, a bad punt snap resulted in a 1-yard run and a turnover on downs, and Cortland capitalized with a 3-play, 10-yard drive capped by Greene's 1-yard TD run.
Later in the first quarter, the Red Dragons marched 56 yards on seven plays, keyed by a 40-yard pass from Pitcher to Babin on 3rd-and-9 from the Cortland 45-yard line, and Greene once again finished the drive with a TD run, this time a 2-yard effort, to give the Red Dragons a 14-0 lead.
Early in the second quarter, TCNJ's Andrew Carbone (Hackettstown, NJ) blocked a Cortland punt that Nicholas Lukaszewicz (Voorhees, NJ/Eastern Regional) returned three yards for a touchdown. However, the Lions' extra point was blocked by Smith and senior D.J. Romano (Newburgh/Newburgh Free Academy) picked up the ball and raced untouched 84 yards down the left sideline for a two-point defensive conversion and a 16-6 Cortland lead.
Cortland's final scoring drive was set up when senior defensive lineman Steve Gruber (Thornwood/Westlake) intercepted a pass and returned the ball 45 yards to the TCNJ 7-yard line with 1:27 left in the half. On the next play, Pitcher hit Babin on a 7-yard pass to the back right corner of the end zone and Cortland led 23-6.
Neither team scored in the third quarter as three of the six drives in the period ended in turnovers on fumbles – two by Cortland and one by TCNJ. With 7:11 left in the game, the Lions started a drive on their own 16-yard line. They eventually scored on Grainger's 44-yard TD catch with 5:24 left and Cortland's lead was cut to 23-13.
TCNJ forced Cortland to punt on its next possession and got the ball back on its own 31-yard line with 2:44 left. On 4th-and-2 at the Cortland 25-yard line, Donoghue connected with Rosati for a 21-yard gain. Following an intentional spike, Donoghue scrambled before throwing a 4-yard TD pass to Grainger with 29.3 seconds left and the Lions were within three at 23-20. Cortland's Mike Humphrey (Le Roy), however, successfully fielded the ensuing onsides kickoff and the Red Dragons ran out the clock.
TCNJ outgained Cortland 319-278 in total offense, snapping the Red Dragons' streak of six consecutive games gaining at least 400 yards.
Cortland will play its final two regular-season games on the road – next Saturday at Brockport at 1 p.m. to complete its NJAC schedule and Nov. 12 at Ithaca at noon in the annual Cortaca Jug rivalry game. TCNJ hosts Western Connecticut State next Saturday at noon and travels to Rowan Nov. 12 at 1 p.m., both NJAC games.