Carney’s career day keys Bengals’ win

Dan Almasi, Associate Sports Editor

After a slow start to the game for both teams, Buffalo State (6-3, 4-3) burst out of the gates in the second half to keep their NCAA playoff hopes alive and come out with a 35-10 win over Hartwick (2-7, 1-6) this Saturday.

Wide receiver Ryan Carney led the Bengals offense with nine catches for 229 yards and three touchdowns, tying the program record for receiving touchdowns in a single game and coming up just 36 yards short of tying the single game receiving yards record.

“Carney is a class receiver,” head coach Jerry Boyes said. “He’s been showing that all season. When the ball is in the air to Ryan Carney, we’ve got a chance. He’s one of those guys, a former basketball player, and he knows how to rebound; he goes up to get the ball. I think the world of Ryan.”

Hartwick focused on shutting down senior wide receiver Mike Doherty, which took attention away from Carney and allowed him to have a huge day.

“They double covered Mike, which gave him (Carney) an opportunity, and as you can see he took advantage of it,” said senior quarterback Kyle Hoppy. “When we have Ryan out there on the other side, and they devote two people to one side, you just have one person on Ryan, so it’s tough to play defense like that.”

Carney, 6’3’’, took advantage of a size mismatch, as he was covered by a 5’6” defensive back for most of the contest.

“It seemed like he was half my size, so I wanted to exploit that right away, and we did,” Carney said.

Carney foreshadowed his big performance, tweeting “I need 200 man. It’s been a minute,” three days before doing just that.

Junior quarterback Dan Serignese started the game for the Bengals, but was taken out in favor of Hoppy on two separate occasions in the first half. Hoppy took over in the second half and sparked a dormant offense, finishing 11 of 18 for 224 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. Serignese finished with a stat line of 7 of 11 for 93 yards and a touchdown, adding 32 rushing yards.

Boyes liked what he saw from Hoppy, but again will consider how each quarterback practices this week before making a final decision on next week’s starter.

“Kyle came in and did a fine job,” Boyes said. “We kind of went with the hot hand, you might say. But he did some things behind the scenes with some automatics, which was very nice to see. We’ll take a look at that and evaluate it and see where we go next week.”

Hoppy felt that being thrown into the game and being taken out affected how easily he was able to find his stride, but he was ready for that type of situation as neither he nor Serignese have played the entire game the past several contests.

“It’s always hard, getting comfortable,” said Hoppy. “It’s all about taking the chances that you get, you know. I don’t think it was tough getting into the game, I just tried to keep myself in the game from the get go, and Dan did the same thing, and we just knew that when we had our number called that we had to go out there and perform.”

The Bengals’ defense controlled the game, forcing five turnovers and allowing just 266 offensive yards, all of which came through the air. Buffalo State shut down the Hawks’ rushing game, as they finished the day with minus nine yards on the ground.

“We just came out to play,” said freshman defensive back Ish Height. “We stuck to our keys. Coach always tells us to create turnovers. The more turnovers we create, the easier it is for the offense to put points on the board.”

Junior defensive lineman Anthony Sanders led the Bengals’ defense with 3.5 tackles for a loss, and was responsible for 1.5 of 5 Buffalo State sacks.

“I was just beating them with speed,” Sanders said. “I’ve got to compliment my other defensive linemen, because without them, I wouldn’t have got there and gotten those sacks.”

Hartwick quarterback John Garcia finished 16 of 46 for 271 yards and four interceptions. Freshman receiver Carl Holmes hauled in five catches for 119 yards and scored on the ground for the Hawks.

Junior defensive back Mitch Thomas came up big for the Bengals on the game’s opening drive, as he made a touchdown-saving tackle on a 48-yard Holmes catch, then picked off Garcia three plays later, returning the pick to Buffalo State’s 23 yard line.

After the Bengals turned the ball over on downs and Hartwick punted, Buffalo State executed a 7-play, 64 yard drive capped off by a 15-yard Serignese-to-Carney touchdown pass to open the scoring with 4:13 left in the first quarter.

That score would be the only one of the first half, as Hartwick’s next five drives all resulted in punts, while Buffalo State would punt twice and turn the ball over twice before halftime. Buffalo State would enter the second half with a 7-0 lead.

The opening play of the second half was a Kyle Hoppy interception by Hartwick’s Midnet Cantave. The Hawks took over at their own 36 and drove 51 yards on 10 plays before getting on the board with a 30-yard Korey Jubie field goal, making the score 7-3, Buffalo State.

“We started off, unfortunately, with an underthrown ball,” Boyes said. “To me, that was a touchdown. Unfortunately, it was a little bit underthrown and intercepted.”

The contest took an interesting turn when on the ensuing kickoff, the ball was kicked straight at a Buffalo State player and bounced back towards Hartwick’s kickoff team and was jumped on by several Hartwick players.

“The onside kick, I didn’t know if that was a designed one,” Boyes said, laughing. “But it hit one of our front guys, and he just didn’t get out of the way, so they got an extra possession there, you might say.”

The Hawks took over at their own 46 and capitalized on their good fortune, capping off a 9-play, 54 yard drive with a 3-yard wide receiver sweep punched in by Holmes.

The Bengals would take over the game from there, though, as they would score on each of their next four drives. The onslaught consisted of 52 and 39-yard Ryan Carney touchdown catches, a 27-yard Doherty strike for a score, and senior running back Brandon Alexander’s first collegiate score, an 11-yard rush.

“It was a blessing to get in and score my first touchdown,” Alexander said. “It felt great. This will probably be my last game playing, but it was great, going into the ending chapter like that.”

Buffalo State stuck with their original game plan and managed to better execute it in the latter half.

“The only thing that changed is execution,” Hoppy said. “We stuck with the same things that we were doing in the first half that we just didn’t execute, and as you saw in the second half, that’s all we did was just continue with our game plan.”

Alexander felt that an energizing halftime speech from junior defensive back Nic Bacon played a part in the Bengals’ added motivation in the second half.

“We didn’t have that energy in the first half that we did in the second,” Alexander said. “We had to go back to the books and talk about it. One of our players, Bacon, he gave us a good speech, and that [helped] us come out on top.”

Buffalo State led by a score of 35-10 with just over six minutes left to play, and would maintain that lead, picking off Garcia then stalling step-in quarterback Billy Pine to give the ball to the offense, allowing them to run the clock to 0:00 to complete the 25-point victory.

Buffalo State is out of contention for first place in the Empire 8, but can still earn a spot in the NCAA tournament if they win next week and some undecided factors go their way.

This Saturday was senior day, the last regular season home game and possibly the last game the senior Bengals would play at Coyer Field. They were honored before the game and greeted by their parents on the field.

“Very happy for our seniors to be able to walk off Coyer Field with a victory on what may have been their last game playing football on Coyer Field,” Boyes said.

The team knows they are in a fight for contention and plan to take on whatever the rest of the season holds in unity.

“It was a tough game last week, and a tough couple weeks before that,” Hoppy said. “Our mentality is that we’re a family, and we know that we’ve got to go out there and play. We have to win every game that we have coming in front of us, and we’ll see what happens.”