Football lets one slip away in loss to Utica


Dave DeLuca/The Record

Buffalo State lost three fumbles against Utica, including Mike Doherty’s (7) third-quarter fumble after a 36-yard reception. Dohery fumbled the ball on the Utica 9-yard line.

Dan Almasi, Associate Sports Editor

Coming off an upset over previously unbeaten and nationally ranked Ithaca and flying high on a three-game winning streak, SUNY Buffalo State football came back down to Earth on Saturday.

The Bengals (5-2, 3-2) fell to the Utica Pioneers, 31-21, at Coyer Field and may have left with a strong and unwanted feeling of déjà vu, as they recalled a very similar loss on Sept. 20 to Alfred University on homecoming day.

Both games saw windy conditions, a season-low 21 Buffalo State points, and a lopsided time-of-possession in the opponents’ favor.

The Bengals had the ball for just over 20 minutes versus Utica, while the Pioneers maintained possession for over 38 minutes. The Bengals held possession for just under 20 minutes versus Alfred.

In both games, the opponent went into halftime with a sizable lead which was cut but not erased by Buffalo State in the latter half as the Bengals went into halftime down 7 to 16 against Alfred and 7 to 24 against Utica. The Bengals fought back against Alfred, but could not get it done as they lost the game 21-29, a result that paralleled the 21-31 loss this past Saturday.

“Utica College came to play and Buffalo State was resting on their laurels,” Buffalo State head coach Jerry Boyes said. “There was a very distinct difference between the level of play between the two teams today. We made too many errors, mental mistakes, discipline mistakes to even come close to winning a football game today (Saturday).

“I’m extremely disappointed in that aspect. Whether or not we were reading our newspaper clippings or whatever and think that all we have to do is come out onto the field and the other team is going to be scared of us, we’re not there. I’m very disappointed [in] getting ourselves ready to play this past week.”

For the third straight game, an inconsistent Kyle Hoppy has been relieved by junior Dan Serignese in an effort to kickstart a lackluster offense.

Serignese replaced Hoppy at the midpoint of the fourth quarter and went 3 of 4 for 60 yards in a score. Hoppy managed to complete just 7 of 17 passes for 134 yards and a score. The offense was limited to just nine first downs before Serignese came in.

Hoppy has started in every game this season for the Bengals, but Boyes stated that he will evaluate the team’s quarterback position over the weekend.

“As I told the quarterbacks, we’re going to evaluate the films tomorrow, and make a decision and start the week with that decision,” he said.

Utica’s Connor Butkiewicz finished 16 of 26 for 250 yards and two touchdowns.

Utica’s defensive line was in the backfield early and often, forcing Hoppy to get rid of the ball and scramble out of the pocket on numerous occasions. The Pioneers registered a season-high five sacks, which was also the most Buffalo State had given up in a game, as they had allowed just six all season before Saturday.

The Bengals managed to get on the board first with a 40-yard Hoppy-to-Doherty strike in which Doherty broke several tackles and side-stepped a man at the two-yard line to give the Bengals a 7-0 lead just over two minutes into the game.

Utica dominated the rest of the first half, scoring on a 40-yard John Baldassare run that was set up by a roughing the kicker call that kept Utica’s drive alive, a 35-yard catch by receiver Anthony Acevedo and a 21-yard J’von Evans carry with three seconds left in the half. The Pioneers also added a 27-yard Thomas Woodburn field goal to make the score 24-to-7 at halftime.

The Bengals have had trouble coming out strong early in games, and that trend continued this week. Buffalo State had just 101 offensive yards at the half. Meanwhile, Utica had allotted 277.

“Going into the game, it feels like we’re going to go out and have an explosive game,” said junior offensive lineman Brandon Lathrop. “We can only blame ourselves for that. It’s just something we’ve got to get past and keep working on, putting points on the board in the first quarter.”

Both teams traded punts and Utica missed a field goal to open the second half. The Bengals started the following drive with a 36-yard pass to Doherty. Doherty was tripped up from behind by Jon Cappotelli and launched the ball into the air. Utica’s Jon Treen recovered the fumble, giving the Pioneers possession at their own 9-yard line.

Four plays later, junior defensive back Maquis Artis gave the Bengals the ball back as he forced a fumble that was recovered by Alessandra on the Utica 14-yard line. The Bengals capitalized on the turnover, as Rich Pete scored on a 5-yard run three plays later to make the score 24-14, Utica, with 1:29 left in the third quarter.

After a Utica punt and fourth-down turnovers by both teams, Hoppy was strip-sacked on the following drive by Utica’s Nick Woodman, giving the Pioneers a short field at Buffalo State’s 21-yard line. It took Utica two plays to find the end zone, as Butkiewicz hit Gregory Palmer for the 19-yard score, giving the Pioneers a 31-14 lead with 8:36 left to play in the game.

Buffalo State answered right back, as three plays later, Dan Serignese hit junior wide receiver Ryan Carney in the end zone for an eight-yard score set up by a 50-yard catch by Mike Doherty on Serignese’s first toss of the day. Utica led 31-21 with 7:16 left on the clock.

That would be the final score, as Buffalo State failed to get anything going on their final possession, surrendering a fourth and 11 sack on Serignese, allowing Utica to take over and run the clock to 0.

Senior wide receiver Mike Doherty accounted for a majority of the Bengals’ offensive production, hauling in five catches for 134 yards and a touchdown. Senior running back Rich Pete was held to a season-low 73 yards on 16 carries. He also scored a touchdown.

Junior linebackers Shaq Fredrick and John Alessandra led the Bengals’ defense, which gave up 416 total yards, registering 16 and 12 tackles, respectively.

The loss drops the Bengals from tied for first place in the Empire 8 with St. John Fisher to tied for third with Salisbury and Brockport. Boyes feels that the loss drastically changes the comfort level of the team.

“We’ve taken ourselves out of a good position, and we’ve put ourselves in a dogfight position,” the coach said.

Junior defensive end Dezmond Howard feels the loss won’t affect the team’s confidence, and is already looking ahead to the rest of the Bengals’ slate.

“One L,” Howard said. “We’ve got the whole season. We’ve got to put this past us. We’re still confident.”

The Bengals travel to Rochester to take on first place St. John Fisher (6-1, 4-1) for Fisher’s “Hall of Fame Weekend”, during which they will honor six new inductees to the school’s athletic hall of fame.

The Cardinals are coming off a 61-0 thrashing of Alfred State on Saturday. The Bengals know they will have to be at the top of their game to come out with a win against the conference leaders.

“In my opinion, it’s going to be the toughest game we play this year,” Lathrop said. “It’s going to be a game where we really are going to have to play the best we have all year.”

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