Buffalo State stalls in 26-13 loss to Utica

Tony Callens, Associate Sports Editor

Buffalo State was red hot coming into Saturday, but like the fall weather in Western New York, the Bengals went cold.

The Utica Pioneers held quarterback Kyle Hoppy and the Bengals offense to a 5 of 22, 58-yard passing day to leave Coyer Field with a 26-13 win.

“Plays don’t win football games, but execution of plays does, and we didn’t execute today,” Buffalo State head coach Jerry Boyes said.

Hoppy also felt the offense wasn’t where it needed to be.

“It’s really nothing that they did, it’s more what we didn’t do. We knew coming into the game they liked to run cover one and lock down receivers. We came in and just didn’t execute,” he said.

The Pioneers found early success with a pair of deep shots from quarterback Teddy VanGalen. His 63-yard pass on a streak connected with receiver Jerred Benqiuez. The junior receiver had two touchdowns on the day as Utica went out to a 13-3 lead in the first quarter.

The Bengals responded with scoring drives of their own. The first was capped off by a Marc Montana field goal after a 10-play, 77-yard drive with gains of 17, 21 and 13.

Buffalo State scored their lone touchdown of the game on a 4-yard pass from Hoppy to tight end Nick Jones.

At the half, the game was tied at 13 and the Bengals had the momentum. But the second half was a different story.

In the third quarter, the Pioneers put together an eight-play, 48-yard drive that was finished by VanGalen and Beniquez’s second touchdown connection of the day that put Utica up, 20-13.

Buffalo State was unable to do any real damage until the fourth quarter when a Utica punt was shanked that gave the offense the ball on the Pioneers 28-yard line.

The deciding moment of the game came on a third down where running back Tre Jones took a run to the 4-yard line. The offense would have been in prime position to score but a holding penalty was called. It was a hands-to-the-face penalty and the play was undone.

The offense was unable to come up with a conversion and decided to kick a field goal. On the attempt, the hold was muffed and the Pioneers made the stop.

“Just crucial. That play where we had the hold and we were inside the five … first-and-goal, but then it’s not,” Boyes said. “We thought, ‘Well, we have to score twice, so let’s take the three points.’ I felt good about it. Our defense had made a couple of stops, but unfortunately we dropped the snap and didn’t get anything out of the drive.”

Utica took the momentum and capitalized with their upcoming drive. A 39-yard rushing touchdown from senior running back Ryan Burnett added to the Bengals’ deficit. Burnett carried the ball 32 times for 153 yards on the day.

The Bengals offense was able to get a run game of their own going. Jones recorded his second-straight 100-yard rushing game with 147 yards on 17 carries, but that was a small bright spot in an otherwise frustrating game all-around.

“There’s a couple times that we had good plays, but we didn’t finish today. Sometimes, the play was there, and you think you are going to get the first down and a block was missed. We were out of sync somewhat today,” Boyes said.

Jones summed up the day to a defense that seemed to be in the right place at the right time for a majority of the afternoon.

“It was almost as if they knew what we were running. We would run option and call option, the linebacker would come over the top and we would audible but then he would be right where he needed to be,” he said, shaking his head.

Buffalo State falls to 4-3 on the season (2-3 in Empire 8 play). Utica improves to 6-2, with a 4-2 record in conference play going into their bye week.

The matchup was just the fifth time the schools have met. The visiting team has won each time. Utica now has the 3-2 edge overall since the two became conference rivals in 2012.

“We just didn’t finish some of those promising drives that we had. The last two weeks, we’ve finished drives pretty well, but today I was just very disappointed with our play,” Boyes said.

The Bengals will finish up their home schedule next week against Hartwick for Senior Day. Kickoff will be at 11:15 a.m.

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