Utica Football Wins Fourth Straight; Sets Stage for First Place Showdown at Salisbury
Utica 31, Alfred 7 - Football Final
Utica, NY (10/27/2012) – The Utica College football team notched arguably one of its biggest wins in program-history on Saturday as the Pioneers, winners of four in a row, topped visiting Alfred University 31-7 in Empire 8 Conference play on the turf at Charles A. Gaetano Stadium. The Pioneers (6-2, 4-1 Empire 8), who tied the school-record for wins in a single season, will now head to nationally-ranked No. 8 Salisbury, also 4-1 in the E8, next Saturday for a shot at sole possession of first place in the conference.
"This is the type of win that our program has been working towards since its inception," said Head Coach Blaise Faggiano. "We came out in the first quarter and really set the tone for the contest. We played with discipline and we put together four full quarters for the third straight week. I've said it before, but I could not be more proud of our student-athletes, coaching staff and everyone who allows this program to operate at such a high level. We still have a long road to go against two very tough teams. We have to get right back to it and start preparing for a very good Salisbury team - but we are certainly going to enjoy this one."
The Pioneers jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first 19 minutes of the contest and never looked back, compiling 471
Senior wide receiver Jeremy Meier opened the scoring on the afternoon with a 36 yard touchdown reception from senior quarterback Andrew Benkwitt to give the Pioneers' an early 7-0 lead. Meier finished the day with seven catches for 135 yards and two scores. He headed into the contest needing just three yards receiving to break the College's career receiving yards record set by Cody Elliot back in 2009. Meier now has 2,252 career receiving yards. Meier needs two more catches in the next two games to break the school-record for receptions in a career, which is also currently held by Elliot. He has 171 catches in four seasons.
The Saxons (4-3, 3-2 Empire 8) were hampered by injuries early on, as they lost their top three offensive threats in the first half of play. Their top two running backs Chuck Beckwith and Austin Dwyer both left the game with injuries after combining for just seven carries, while starting quarterback Zach Sopak also had to leave the game with an injury after attempting just eight passes.
Alfred was able to muster one first half score, an eight yard pass from backup QB Joe Enslin to Jonathan Ruffing, to cut UC's lead to 14-7 with 5:27 to go in the half. But the Pioneers were able to capitalize on a Shawn Mitchell interception late in the half, which led to freshman kicker Thomas Woodburn's 36 yard field goal as the first half clock expired with the Pioneers' on top by ten, 17-7.
The second half proved to be all Utica as they controlled the time of possession, holding the ball for over 20 of the final 30 minutes in the game. UC's defense also forced six second half punts, as they held the Saxons scoreless.
Junior running back Jesse Baldasssare posted a second half touchdown to put UC on top 24-7 in the third quarter, while Meier sealed the victory with a 15 yard touchdown reception with 9:03 left to go in the game to close out the scoring. Baldassare rushed the ball 25 times for 107 yards on the afternoon. His third consecutive 100 yard rushing game propelled him into third place on the College's all-time rushing list (905 career rushing yards), surpassing 2005 graduate Paul Hart.
Sophomore cornerback Shawn Mitchell intercepted two key passes for the Pioneers and he also added four tackles.
Alfred's Andy Ruddock posted a game-high 12 tackles for forced one fumble. Alfred backup quarterback Joe Enslin completed 11 passes for 128 yards and one touchdown, while Maleke Fuentes caught a team-best six balls for 80 yards. Malcolm Downey carried the ball nine times for 34 yards for the Saxons.
UC's Matt Dunn, a preseason All-American, caught a game-high eight balls for 105 yards. Baldassare also chipped in with six catches for 54 yards out of the backfield. As a team the Pioneers set a new single-season record for receiving yards, as they now have 2,800 for the year.
Utica, which set a new school-record for conference victories with four, will head to No. 8 Salisbury in Maryland on Saturday to take on the Sea Gulls at 12 p.m. Salisbury is coming off of their first-ever Empire 8 Conference loss at Ithaca, 21-14, on Saturday. Alfred will return home next Saturday to take on Frostburg.
Quick Hitters: The UC defense tied the school-record for most tackles for a loss in a single game, totaling 12 … Meier set a new single-season scoring record after his two touchdown catches, surpassing Jake Scott's old record of 72 points … Meier also broke the school's single-season receiving yards record – he needs just 13 more yards to become the program's first 1,000 yard receiver in a single-season … Meier needs eight catches to break the school's single-season receptions record of 65 … Benkwitt broke his own single-season passing yards record and he now has 2,646 for the year … Benkwitt is currently averaging 330 yards passing per game – no quarterback in school-history has ever finished the year averaging 300+ passing yards per game … Baldassare needs 84 yards rushing to move into fourth place on the College's single-season rushing yards list – he currently has 697.