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Buffalo State Uses Fourth Quarter Explosion to Surge Past Utica, 34-19

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UTICA, NY—Buffalo State (4-4/2-3) scored three touchdowns in a span of one minute and 21 seconds in the fourth quarter to pull away for a 34-19 victory over host Utica (3-4/1-3) in an Empire 8 game today at Charles A. Gaetano Stadium.

Buffalo State quarterback Casey Kacz (Amherst/Sweet Home) finished 19 of 31 for 276 yards with a pair of passing touchdowns and ran for another.  Mike Doherty (Tonawanda/Kenmore East) had six catches for 103 yards and a touchdown, and Isaiah Clarke (Brooklyn/Grand Street) caught four passes for 73 yards and a score.  Junior running back Rich Pete (Utica/TR Proctor) had 15 carries for 72 yards and a touchdown.  Shaq Frederick (Brooklyn/Holy Cross) led the Bengals defense with 14 tackles, including 12 solo stops.                

Utica quarterback Connor Butkiewicz was 27 of 49 for 232 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.  Ryan Burnett was the Pioneers leading rusher with 15 carries for 77 yards and touchdown.

Utica opened the scoring with the only points of the first quarter on a 22-yard field goal by Thomas Woodburn on a drive that was extended by a roughing the punter call on the Bengals.

Buffalo State took the lead early in the second quarter after Chris Hall's (Pasadena, CA/St. Francis) fourth interception of the season gave the Bengals the ball at the Pioneers' 19-yard line.  Buffalo State punched it in five plays later on a 1-yard keeper by Kacz to take a 7-3 lead. 

On the ensuing possession, Buffalo State was too aggressive on special teams again, extending another Utica drive with a second roughing the punter penalty.  The Pioneers took advantage again, connecting on back-to-back long passes, including a 25-yards touchdown strike from Butkiewicz to Jamie Murphy. 

On the final play of the first half, the Bengals' special teams atoned for earlier miscues, blocking a 37-yard Woodburn field goal try, leaving the deficit 10-7 at the intermission.

After a 38-yard field goal by Woodburn opened the second-half scoring, Buffalo State reclaimed the lead at 14-13 on an 11-yard touchdown run by Pete, which was set up by a 32-yard pass from Kacz to Billy Joiner (Rochester/John Marshall).

Utica struck next, capitalizing on another Bengals' penalty, a third-down pass interference call that sustained another drive and ultimately led to a 22-yard scoring run by Burnett on a draw play on a third-and-9.  The Pioneers went for a two-point conversion, but the pass attempt was broken up in the end zone, leaving the score 19-14 with 11:42 remaining.

Buffalo State took over from there, however, taking the lead for good on its next possession with a 27-yard touchdown pass from Kacz to Clarke.  Then on the first play after a Utica three-and-out, Kacz looked to the air again, connecting with Doherty for a 58-yard catch and run down the right side line for the score.

Just 15 seconds later, on Utica's next offensive play from scrimmage, Buffalo State struck again, when Eddie Weiser (Grand Island/Grand Island) forced a fumble, scooped it up and took it 16 yards to the house to push the lead to 34-19 with 7:05 remaining.

Mitchell Thomas (Buffalo/Sweet Home) came up with a late interception for Buffalo State in its own territory to thwart any hopes of late heroics by the Pioneers.

Buffalo State will visit Harwick for a 1 p.m. kickoff in more Empire 8 play next Saturday.

The definitive history of the USFL: Football for a Buck, by Jeff Pearlman. Available now!
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