Second Half Effort Powers Utica Past Bengals Save
UTICA, NY - The Utica College football team had a big second half performance in dispatching non-conference foe Buffalo State on Saturday. Led by two receiving touchdowns by John James O'Connor (Auburn, NY/Weedsport), a strong day by running back Jamarious Morgan (Utica, NY/Thomas R. Proctor), and a stingy defensive effort, the Pioneers wiped out a 3-0 halftime deficit with a 26-12 margin in the second half as they rolled to a second win to begin 2019 by a 26-15 score at Charles A. Gaetano Stadium. The win was the fourth in a row for Utica (2-0) against the Bengals (0-2), who came to town as a non-conference opponent for the first time. Buffalo State previously belonged to the Empire 8 in Football from 2012 to 2018. Utica outgained the Bengals on the day by a margin of 328 to 319 in terms of total offense, and outrushed Buffalo State 157-116 on the day. It was a bend, but don't break situation for much of the day for the resilient Pioneer defense in a game won on tight margins. Utica halted Buffalo State short of the end zone with the Bengals driving into Utica territory on three different occasions before the Bengal defense scored on a third quarter interception, and those earlier stops proved vital to the Pioneer cause in a close victory. The Utica defense racked up three sacks, and interception, and nine tackles for loss in the win. Leading the unit was Antonio Scala (Coram, NY/Longwood), who exhibited strong form tonight with a team best ten tackles and three tackles for loss. John Nish (Canastota, NY/Oneida) shared the top spot on the squad with ten tackles to help set the pace for a second straight week. Kwasi Addo (Menands, NY/Shaker) racked up nine tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, a sack, and an interception. Utica did not allow a rushing touchdown in the game, and have now done so in five straight games. The Pioneers are 9-0 in the last two years when not allowing a rushing score to the opponent. Jamarious Morgan (Utica, NY/Thomas R. Proctor) had an incredible performance for Utica to pave the way for the offense. The Utica native rolled to a collegiate best 123 yards on eighteen carries and a touchdown. He averaged over six yards per carry. O'Connor caught three balls for 70 yards and two touchdowns, and Peyton Miller (Chemung, NY/Waverly) made four grabs for 89 yards. Logan Wilcox (Utica, NY/Proctor) completed 9 of 25 pass attempts for 171 yards and two touchdowns, both of which were to O'Connor. The Pioneer signal caller threw three interceptions and was sacked once. The Pioneers came out firing on the opening possession, as the Pioneers methodically waltzed downfield on a 62 yard drive after receiving the opening kick. But Utica would find their quest for the early lead marked just short as Wilcox was picked off at the goal line on second and goal on the Bengal four yard line. The teams traded punts on the next four drives to round out a scoreless opening frame. Buffalo State would then turn in a threatening drive. The Bengals took control on a Utica punt at their own fourteen yard line, and went 84 yards on fourteen plays led by running back Myles Mckinney, and key catches by Joe Stewart and Jordan Evert. When the scenario flipped to 1st and goal for the Bengal offense, the Pioneers caught a new wind at the tail end of a grueling possession to permanently alter the momentum of the game. The Pioneers would use that second wind to shut the Bengals down at the goal line on a brilliant defensive stand. On a first down run play from the two yard line, Addo bounced McKinney to the turf after a gain of one. On second down from the one, defensive end Jack Derby (Fonda, NY/Fultonville Fonda) dumped the Bengal tailback into the backfield for a loss of one. Scala pinned Bengal quarterback Zack Ciezki as well with a tackle for loss on third down. With the Bengals threatening on fourth down with an outside run play, Robert Diaz-Judson (Rochester, NY/Irondequoit) finished the job by running Martin Bailey out of bounds at the two yard line to force a turnover on downs and polish off one of the firmest goal line stops in the history of the program. After seeing the Bengals turn the ball over in the same spot as Utica's early interception, the offense came back onto the field with a confident drive of 62 yards, but it was to no ultimate avail as the Pioneers punted in Bengal territory with 2:50 to go in the half. The punt was downed at the one-yard line on an exceptional play by Utica's Marquis Simpson (Middle Island, NY/Longwood).