Football turns lights off on Fisher


Dave DeLuca/The Record

Sophomore running back Dale Stewart rushed six times for 45 yards and a touchdown in Saturday’s 30-7 homecoming win over St. John Fisher.

Anthony Reyes, Opinion Editor

The Buffalo State football team readied to take on the St. John Fisher Cardinals Saturday afternoon when, just before game time, there was a campus-wide power outage that also affected Coyer Field. The game went on without a hitch, but that wasn’t the only power outage of the day. The other came in the form of the Buffalo State defense shutting down the St. John Fisher offense as the Bengals cruised to a 30-7 victory.

Coming off two disappointing losses to Alfred University and Morrisville State, the Bengals were looking to bounce back in front of a homecoming crowd at Coyer Field.

“I don’t know if we pushed the panic button, but I was concerned,” Buffalo State head coach Jerry Boyes said, “and I voiced it to the team at our team meeting.”

The Bengals apparently heard Boyes’ message loud and clear and the defense got it going right away. The Cardinals first drive, which lasted just three plays, resulted in a fumble that was recovered by Buffalo State in St. John Fisher territory, setting the offense up with great field position.

The offense, led by junior quarterback Aaron Ertel, who was making his first career start, also wasted no time getting it going. The offense took the ball 45 yards in 11 plays for the touchdown. A 16-yard pass to wide receiver Had Bryant capped off the drive, the extra point was missed and it was 6-0 Bengals. The rest of the game featured more of the same for Buffalo State – dominating defense and efficient offense.

The Bengals turned an interception on the Cardinals’ second possession into more points as they added a field goal to make it 9-0.

On the first play of the ensuing drive, Buffalo State defensive end Andrew Cleveland put a hard hit on St. John Fisher quarterback Danny Catan and knocked him out of the game just before the end of the first quarter. The Cardinals, who were already struggling on offense, were now without their starting quarterback.

Early in the second quarter, sophomore running back Dale Stewart took a handoff 37 yards for the touchdown and extended the lead to 16-0. A Cardinals punt on the ensuing drive pinned the Bengals back on their goal line. St. John Fisher put a ton of pressure on and forced a three-and-out.

It seemed to be the first time in the game where the momentum was in the Cardinals’ favor. This would turn out to be the defining moment of the game.

The Cardinals, with backup quarterback Mat Naton in the game, drove to the Buffalo State 15. On third down, Naton took a shot at the end zone and was intercepted by sophomore defensive back Mike Bryan, who was tackled at the Buffalo State two-yard line.

For the second drive in a row the Bengals were backed up deep on their goal line, but this drive had a much different result. The Bengals took the ball 98 yards in 12 plays and chewed up just over seven minutes of the clock, scoring on a 33-yard pass from Ertel to junior running back Tre Jones on a crucial fourth-and-nine play. The score was now 23-0 in favor of Buffalo State with just under a minute to go in the first half and the proverbial nail seemed to be all but driven into the coffin.

The Cardinals failed to get anything going and the teams headed into halftime with the score 23-0 in favor of Buffalo State. Coming out of halftime, Coyer Field regained power just before play resumed, which sent the homecoming crowd into a cheering frenzy. The Bengals would give them even more to cheer about as they went 75 yards in 13 plays in just over seven minutes and capped if off with a nine-yard pass from Ertel to sophomore wide receiver Stephen Johnson to extend the lead to 30-0.

The teams continued to trade scoreless possessions for the rest of the game and it wasn’t until their last drive of the game that St. John Fisher got on the board. With the Bengals 47 seconds away from their second shutout in four games, Naton found wide receiver Nathan Nigolian on a fade route in the back corner of the end zone for the 17-yard touchdown. The Bengals received the ensuing kickoff and took a knee to end the game.

“It’s a shame, it’s a real shame that they did get that score,” Boyes said. “Because a goose egg in today’s football is a huge, huge accomplishment, so it’s just kind of too bad for them to have the frosting taken away from the cake, you might say, but we’ll take the cake and move on.”

The Bengals defense allowed just 185 yards of total offense and forced three turnovers; it was an all-out effort by the unit as 21 different players registered a tackle. They were led by senior linebacker Marquis Artis, who had 10 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. In their four games this year, the defense has forced a total of 12 turnovers.

As for the offense, they were balanced and efficient, finishing with 384 yards of total offense. In his first career start, Ertel led the offensive attack going 21 for 36 with 223 yards passing and three touchdowns. He also added 18 yards on five carries. His favorite target on the day was junior wide receiver Isaiah Clarke, who finished with a team-high seven catches for 50 yards.

“It feels great, I can’t stop smiling honestly,” Ertel said about his first collegiate start. “I was confident going in there from the start. I had faith in my offensive line blocking. I knew the receivers were going to do their job, so my job was only catch the ball and throw it and the rest is history.”

Ertel received commendable reviews from his teammates.

“I love how Ertel played today – fearless,” Clark said. “That’s the Ertel we know. Last week, he got kind of thrown in there. Now after a week of practice, he knows what he’s doing now, making checks, calling his own plays, being the quarterback we know that he can be.”

Boyes was asked if he will continue to roll with Ertel until his performance suggests otherwise and without hesitation he answered, “Absolutely.”

Boyes is proud of the way his team played. He stated he thought all three phases played well and he has been expecting that, but he also knows not to get too high after a single win.

“There’s a long season ahead of us,” he said. “One birdie doesn’t make a round; you’ve got 18 holes to play.”

The Bengals are now 2-2 and will be heading into a crucial matchup with the undefeated Cortland Red Dragons who sit atop the Empire 8, Saturday at Coyer Field.

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