Dave DeLuca/The Record
Buffalo State struggled offensively in its first full game without injured quarterback Kyle Hoppy, falling 37-23 to Morrisville State at Drake Field.
The Bengals offense put up only 255 yards of total offense to Morrisville State’s 562, and was held scoreless until kicker Marc Montana hit a 35-yard field goal on the last play of the third quarter.
Buffalo State’s two most explosive plays of the day came on the defensive side of the ball.
Junior defensive back Will Cheshire picked off Morrisville quarterback Cory Benedetto early in the second quarter and returned it 50 yards for the score to put the Bengals on the board. Cheshire also led the Bengals with 11 tackles, including three for a loss.
Defensive back Rey Jordan made his second interception of the year on Benedetto’s second interception of the game and returned it 55 yards to the Morrisville 25, setting up the Bengals with good field position early in the third quarter. Buffalo State failed to convert, though, as they turned the ball over on downs.
“The interceptions were huge,” senior linebacker John Alessandra said. “They gave us life and momentum.”
Senior quarterback Dan Serignese started the game under center, going 2 of 8 for 13 yards before being pulled from the game in favor of junior Aaron Ertel, who managed to complete 16 of 30 pass attempts for 199 yards.
“I felt good,” Ertel said. “I trusted my line. We did what we could do. I’m looking forward to next week.”
Running back Tre Jones led the fourth quarter rally, scoring on 2- and 6-yard touchdown runs in a too-little, too-late comeback effort by the Bengals.
The Bengals’ fumbling issues continued, as they put the ball on the ground seven times, two of which were recovered by Morrisville State.
After averaging nearly 9 yards-per-carry through their first two games, Buffalo State’s ground attack was finally slowed as Jones was held under 100 yards for the first time this season, rushing 16 times for 48 yards. Running back Dale Stewart managed just four yards on five carries, but was Buffalo State’s leading receiver with 73 yards on five catches.
Jones was running against a stacked box and felt that Morrisville State “figured they didn’t have to worry about the pass.”
Buffalo State had one of the Empire 8’s most lethal air attacks last season, but the passing game has sputtered this season as no one has stepped up to replace All-Empire 8 receivers Mike Doherty and Ryan Carney.
No Buffalo State wide receiver has caught a touchdown pass through three games this season. Junior receiver Madison Wesolowski leads the team with 10 catches for 134 yards.
In comparison, through the first three games of 2014, Doherty registered 17 catches for 373 yards and two touchdowns while Carney had eight catches for 153 yards and three touchdowns heading into Week Four.
Buffalo State will rely on Serignese and Ertel going forward as Hoppy will miss the remainder with a knee injury. It’s unclear who will be the team’s starting quarterback this Saturday against St. John Fisher, let alone for the remainder of the season.
“Dan Serignese is a great quarterback,” Ertel said. “I’m not sure what Coach Boyes is thinking about this week, but whatever he does, I think we’ll be alright. I’ll be ready Saturday, whoever he picks.”
Whoever is given the opportunity will need to step up and breathe life into a mediocre passing attack. Otherwise, opposing defenses will begin to look at Buffalo State’s offense as one-dimensional, making game planning against the Bengals very easy.
“I think everybody’s doing their job,” Ertel said. “I have full trust in the receivers; we have a great receiving corps. It’s the quarterback’s job to get the ball to the open receiver and hope he makes the play.”
Buffalo State will take on St. John Fisher (1-2) on homecoming weekend this Saturday at Coyer Field. Fisher is coming off a 42-41 double-overtime Courage Bowl win in which they handed Brockport (2-1) their first loss of the season.
“This is a huge week,” Alessandra said. “We’re coming home after three tough away games; we’ve got to come home and get on track and beat Fisher. We have a whole season ahead of us. All our goals of winning the conference are not out the window by any means, we’re not going to turn over and give up.”
Head coach Jerry Boyes could not be reached for comment.
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