The game I've been waiting two years to see did not disappoint in any way. Arriving at Mount Ida College at 1 o'clock after getting lost at makeshift rotaries in Newton, only to realize that the game was scheduled to start at noon and not 1 as the schedule had posted, Utica was already out to a 40-6 lead in the second quarter.
The Pioneers took that 40-6 lead into the locker room at halftime and the sideline, short of Utica family and friends was more than pleased with the passing game provided by Freshman quarterback Andrew Benkwitt. Benkwitt had four touchdown passes in the first half. Two of those to Joshua Mason (12,28), and one each to Cody Elliot (11) and Jeremy Meier (4). Running back Jake Scott also had two rushing touchdowns in the first half (1,15). From the looks of it, Scott (17 carries, 81 yards) has replaced Zachary Jones (7 carries, 14 yards) as the teams starting tailback.
The second half was a completely different story as Mount Ida began to attack and the Utica defense, led by linebacker and D-III all-star, Eric Kahl (12 tackles) could not get any stops on third down, giving the Mustangs an opportunity to close the gap and bring the game down to the final 3 minutes. Mount Ida was successful throwing the ball to almost any open receiver on the field, courtesy of Scott Drosendahl and a strong rushing attack by Frank Rimann and Johrone Bunch who both tallied over 100 yards on the ground each.
After Bunch tied the game on a 6 yard run up the middle, Utica answered with a 70 yard drive that last 2:54 leaving only 22 seconds on the clock. The drive ended with Benkwitt's fifth touchdown pass on the day and Cody Elliot's second touchdown catch to give Utica a 47-40 lead with the final kickoff and drive ahead. After the kickoff, Mount Ida had one play left and attempted to lateral the ball repeatedly in an attempt to send the game into overtime. The rush of players on the sidelines and fans behind them began following the ball and yelling at the top of our lungs. The play felt as if it lasted well over a minute as the ball was tossed from Mustang to Mustang until it was batted down by a Utica player to end the game and give the Pioneers their fourth victory on the season.
After speaking with coaches Blaise Faggiano and Will Pluff after the game, we all agreed that the game was more than entertaining and that Utica was able to close out the game with a great drive at the end, under command of a future great in Benkwitt. The last 3 minutes of that game speak so much more to the heart and determination in the face of adversity for this Utica team. After coming out on top 40-6 and having allowed 34 unanswered points to tie the game, Utica still kept plugging away on both sides of the ball to drive in the final score to go away winners.
Overhearing players like Eric Kahl and Tom Havener cheering on their teammates and keeping the rest of the team in high spirits and focused on the game, there's no doubt that this team is coming together and getting better each week. In the final game of the season, Utica College is headed to Alfred University looking to end the season on a two game win streak and a .500 record.