Late score pushes football past Ithaca


Dave DeLuca/The Record

Dan Serignese runs for a key first down to set up the game-winning score.

Anthony Reyes, Opinion Editor

Not every day do you see a Division III football game played on a Division I field, but that’s what took place Saturday when the Buffalo State football team hit the turf at UB Stadium to take on the Ithaca Bombers. It was an “anything you can do, I can do better,” type of game from a defensive standpoint, but the Bengals ultimately came out, 7-3.

The game began at snail’s pace as eight of the first 10 drives ended in punts – four for the Bengals and four for the Bombers, the other two drives ended in a Buffalo State turnover and Ithaca turning the ball over on downs.

With just a little over a minute to go in the first quarter, Buffalo State’s sophomore running back Dale Stewart took the option handoff from junior quarterback Aaron Ertel and shot through the open hole for 80 yards and a touchdown. But, that touchdown was ultimately called back due to a holding penalty. The call was the first of many against the Bengals.

The first points of the game weren’t scored until midway through the second quarter when Ithaca kicker Max Rottenecker connected on a 23-yard field goal to give the Bombers a 3-0 lead. The teams would eventually head into halftime with the score remaining 3-0, Ithaca.

In the first half, the two teams combined to go 2 of 13 on third downs and racked up a combined 318 punting yards.

When the teams returned for the second half of play, Buffalo State’s senior quarterback Dan Serignese entered the game, taking over for Ertel who struggled, completing just 5 of 10 passes for 40 yards and an interception in the first half.

On the first drive of the second half, the Bengals were forced to punt. Sophomore punter Ryan Mutterer was hit and a roughing the kicker penalty was charged to Ithaca, giving the ball back to Buffalo State. On the very next play, Bengals’ junior running back Tre Jones fumbled and Ithaca recovered. It seemed as if every time Buffalo State would get something going on offense, a turnover or penalty would cause it to stall.

The next three drives ended in punts, two from Ithaca and one from the Bengals.

Then, about three minutes into the fourth quarter, Buffalo State finally lit up the scoreboard. Serignese found wide receiver Had Bryant in the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown and gave the Bengals a 7-3 lead with 11:43 remaining in the game.

Ithaca received the ball two more times before the end of the game, getting into the Bengals red zone both times, but the Buffalo State defense stood tall. It forced an interception on the first drive and then a turnover on downs on the second drive.

The Bengals then turned to their running game for the remainder of regulation and ran the clock out, ultimately coming away with the 7-3 victory.

“We didn’t play too well last week,” sophomore defensive back Ish Height said. “So our coach was just like, ‘Have faith in schemes and have faith in each other,’ and that’s exactly what we did today and got the W.”

Buffalo State took 12 penalties for a total of 113 yards, many of which came at crucial times, compared to just two penalties for 27 yards on Ithaca.

It’s the penalties in big spots that’s “very concerning to me,” head coach Jerry Boyes said. “We had drives, but then a major penalty, and all holds come back at us. That’s a little bit uncharacteristic for us, so we’ve got to take a look at that and address it, because they are drive killers.”

The Bengals offense was led by Stewart, who finished with 19 carries for 94 yards, playing on the very same field that his brother, James Starks, UB’s career rushing leader and current Green Bay Packer, used to play on. Stewart himself was also recruited to play for UB, but ultimately, things fell through.

“I was supposed to go here a long time ago, so it felt kind of good to be out here with my team,” Stewart said. “I’m blessed man, to get another opportunity to be out here and play football, best thing in my life.”

Serignese led the Buffalo State air attack, coming on in relief and completing 9 of 12 passes for 92 yards and the game-winning touchdown. Madison Wesolowski led the team in receiving with four catches for 73 yards.

“Feels amazing,” Serignese said. “I haven’t been playing for the past five games, so it’s good to just get the opportunity to come in and be able to win.”

The Bengals were only able to come away with 287 yards of total offense and they turned the ball over three times as well. But after going just 1 of 6 on third downs in the first half, they finished the game 7 of 14, going 6 of 8 in the second half.

The defense was led by linebackers John Alessandra and Shaq Frederick, who finished with 11 and seven tackles, respectively. Height also had a big interception late in the fourth quarter. Buffalo State held the Bombers to 174 yards of total offense, 88 yards through the air and 86 yards on the ground, and allowed them to convert only 3 of 13 third downs.

The win gets the Bengals back on track at 4-3 within the conference after the loss to Hartwick last week. They have just one game remaining, a tilt against Brockport on Saturday at Coyer Field, the I-90 Bowl, and their chances at a playoff berth and or bowl game bid will be on the line.

“Losing to Hartwick is probably the most detrimental loss, we just played down to the other team’s capabilities,” student assistant coach Marcus Ashe said. “We still have hope, especially winning this game, we just need a lot of help now, that’s all it is. We’ve just got to play the waiting game.”

The Bengals sit at fourth place in the Empire 8. The three teams in front of them: Alfred University, Cortland and St. John Fisher are all tied with a record of 5-2. Buffalo State has victories over Cortland and Fisher this year, but lost early in the season to Alfred.

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