Sadly, Utica College suffered their first loss of the season in their Empire 8 opener against nationally ranked #24 St. John Fisher College. Utica fought throughout the whole game and never gave up, doing everything they possibly could to earn the victory. The final score was 35-24 but in no way tells the story of how close this game actually was.
Courtesy of Jon Griffith ('05 Alum, Defensive End) I was given the 1st half play by play. The game began with Utica and Fisher fighting back and forth for the first ten minutes of the game. UC took a 7-0 lead after a Fisher turnover leading to a rushing touchdown by Jake Scott (sophomore). Fisher quickly tied the game at 7 on a seven yard pass from Tim Bailey to Dan Witkowski (a common theme of the game). Utica marched down the field again to take a 14-7 lead on Jake Scott's second touchdown of the game. Fisher did not go away quietly as they tied it again on their next possession with another Bailey to Witkowski pass. Again, without delay, Utica upped the anti, 21-14 on a rushing touchdown by Justin Becker (freshman), followed by Bailey and Witkowski hooking up for the third and final time of the game on a 46-yard pass to tie the game for the third time. Utica was unable to respond and Fisher took the ball downfield on the next drive and scored on a 4-yard run to take a 28-21 lead and never look back after going in at the half with the lead.
Closing Out Games...
I was then able to catch the second half of the game online with some help from Matthew Simonini (former Wide Receiver/Quarterback '03). Utica came out and kicked a field goal to bring the lead down to four after their first drive of the second half. Both sides of the ball began to sputter on offense, including 3 and outs and a few turnovers for both sides that gave each team a chance to swing the momentum their way. Neither team was able to capitalize and Fisher scored their 5th and final touchdown of the game on a 26 yard pass from Tim Bailey. What hurt even more than the six points was that Bailey was corraled in the backfield and escaped a number of Utica defenders to avoid the sack and launch his pass, reminiscent of Eli Manning in the Super Bowl against my beloved Patsies.
Utica continued to fight hard after a Fisher turnover in the red zone but missed a field goal to cut the lead to 8. The game then became a race against the clock as Fisher continued to run the ball and convert on third down. Utica still showed some life while driving the ball into Fisher territory, but it was all said and done when Andrew Benkwitt (Sophomore) threw his second interception of the day and Fisher put an end to the game.
The two teams totaled 882 yards of total offense on 143 plays. Two undefeated teams went in showcasing their high powered offenses and were both slightly exposed for what looked like their lack of power on defense. Senior linebackers Kevin Hennion (17) and Travis Ladd (11) led their team in tackles again, but wasn't enough to stop the nationally ranked Cardinals in their first game under the lights in program history.
A Must Win Game
Utica College (4-1) takes on St. Lawrence University (2-3) this weekend to close out their homestand at Charles A. Gaetano Stadium, Saturday 10/9 at 2 PM. If you can't make it to the game, you can again catch it online at the Utica College Pioneers homepage.
Utica College Head Coach, Blaise Faggiano, during a week of preparation to refocus and get back to form had this to say about this weekends game against St. Lawrence:
SLU is coming off a big win against Hobart. We must win this last non-conference game. They [St. Lawrence] had not beat Hobart in 20 years. We are pleased with the start to the season but it is how we finish that is important.
A very big thankyou goes out to Coach Faggiano for being gracious enough to contribute so much this season as well as Christopher Penree for providing the amazing pictures of the Utica College Pioneers. You can buy Utica College Pioneer Photo's from Christopher Penree at Green Couch Studios. And don't forget, if you're interested in attending Utica College and playing for a great program, fill out a Utica College Football Recruiting Form.