BUFFALO, NY—Andrew Beckwitt (Mamaroneck/Mamaroneck) was 38 of 58 for 398 yards and six touchdowns, including throwing the game-winner with 13 seconds remaining as Utica (3-2/1-1) erased a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit to defeat host Buffalo State (2-4/0-3), 51-44, in an Empire 8 game today at Coyer Field.
Beckwitt's favorite target was Jeremy Meier (Rome/Rome Free) who had 12 catches for 148 yards and four touchdowns, including the winner. Jamie Murphy (Canandaigua/Marcus Whitman) added 11 catches for 115 yards and a score. Joe Giametta (Seaford/MacArthur) led the Pioneers with 11 tackles, and James Lenahan (Mahopac/Mahopac) had a pair of interceptions.
Buffalo State quarterback Casey Kacz (Amherst/Sweet Home) finished 18 of 31 for 288 yards with a pair of interceptions. Sherman Nelson (Buffalo/O'Hara) had five catches for 99 yards. Rich Pete (Utica/Proctor) had 91 total yards, including 60 on 10 carries and three touchdowns, and Manny Brooks (Auburn/Auburn) had 67 yards on 12 carries with a pair of scores. Pasquale Vacchio (Glen Head/North Shore) led the Bengals' defense with 15 tackles and had an interception and a forced fumble.
The two teams combined for nearly 1,000 yards with Utica posting 484 yards and the Bengals gaining 477, but Buffalo State committed four turnovers and had a punt blocked. After a 21-0 third quarter, Utica answered with a 30-point fourth quarter to claim the victory.
Pete's third touchdown of the game on a 1-yard run with 9:50 remaining gave Buffalo State a 44-29 advantage, but Utica roared back to steal the victory. The Pioneers answered that score with a quick six-play, 65-yard drive resulting in a 7-yard touchdown from Beckwitt to Alex DeRusso (Clifton Park/Shenendehowa).
After a three-and-out by the Bengals, Buffalo State's defense produced a stop of its own, forcing a Utica punt. The Bengals muffed the ensuing kick, however, and Shawn Mitchell (Philadelphia/Indian River) fell on the loose ball, giving the Pioneers a fresh set of downs at the Buffalo State 33.
Utica scored just five plays later on a 12-yard strike from Benkwitt to Meier, and then Benkwitt connected on a swing pass to Jesse Baldassare (Mt. Sinai/Mt. Sinai) on the two-point conversion to knot the game at 44-44 with 2:47 remaining.
A poor return on a squib kick, the Bengals took over on their own 15-yard line. After moving the ball close to midfield, a holding penalty set them back, and on a third-and-17, Chris Adams (Ballston Spa/Ballston Spa) broke through the Buffalo State line to register a sack-fumble, and Cedric Hairston (Corning/Corning) came up with the recovery at the Utica 40 with just 34 seconds remaining.
Benkwitt completed three quick passes, including the 10-yarder to Meier with just 13 seconds left to put Utica in front and complete the scoring.
The Pioneers scored the only points of the first quarter after Lenahan's first interception on the Bengals' first offensive play gave Utica a short field. Benkwitt connected with Meier for a 25-yard touchdown strike just four plays later to give Utica the early 7-0 lead.
Utica took advantage of another short field early in the second quarter, following a blocked punt, the third against the Bengals in as many weeks. The Pioneers needed just six plays to go 26 yards, capped by a 4-yard pass from Benkwitt to Murphy to put the Pioneers ahead 14-0.
Buffalo State answered on its next possession. After a 46-yard return by Caesarae Lewis (Newbern, AL/Sunshine) set the Bengals up at midfield, Buffalo State moved the ball 50 yards on nine plays and cut the deficit to 14-7 with a 1-yard touchdown run by Pete.
It was Buffalo State's turn to flip the field, as a Vacchio interception just two plays later gave the Bengals the ball at midfield. Kacz hit Dave Jacobs (Auburn/Auburn) with a 47-yard strike, and Manny Brooks (Auburn/Auburn) punched it in for a 2-yard touchdown. The Bengals missed the extra point and still trailed 14-13.
Utica pushed its lead to 21-13 with an 8-play, 56-yard drive that ended with a 2-yard scoring plunge by Baldassare with just 41 seconds remaining in the half, but Buffalo State managed to drive 45 yards in its hurry-up offense, and Nate Benoit (Grand Island/Grand Island) booted a 36-yard field goal to cut the advantage to 21-16 on the final play of the opening half.
The Bengals took the lead in the third quarter, outscoring the Pioneers 21-0 in the period. The scoring plays included an 8-yard keeper by Kacz, a 35-yard scamper by Pete and a 6-yard run by Brooks.
Benkwitt and Meier hooked up for a 10-yard score on the first play of the fourth quarter before Pete scored his third TD to set the stage for the late comeback.
Buffalo State will travel to Ithaca next Saturday for a 1 p.m. kickoff still searching for its first win in the Empire 8.