Asst. Sports Editor
The Utica College Pioneers swallowed a tough pill in last weekend’s 47-40 loss to Cortland State. The Pioneers fell to the Red Dragons in a nail-biting overtime finish. The loss puts UC at 2-2 on the season and every game remaining is crucial.
Head coach Blaise Faggiano was impressed with his guys’ response in practice and weights this week as the homecoming game against defending conference champions Ithaca College approaches.
“The guys have a lot to be excited about, the game will be on Time Warner Cable and this may be the last ranked opponent we face all season,” Faggiano said.
The Pioneers are not, and should not, be hanging their heads from the loss to Cortland because there were a lot of positives out of the game. They just let one slip away. Junior quarterback Teddy VanGalen was very nonchalant about the loss.
“We just came up a little short in the end,” VanGalen said. VanGalen went on to elaborate on the last possession and play of the game. “We almost had it, fell short. Last play, I got flushed out of the pocket, tried to put it in the air and give someone a chance to make a play. It’s unfortunate.”
VanGalen threw for 351 yards and three touchdowns on 40 attempts to counter his season-high two interceptions. Those interceptions were just a few of the mental breakdowns that Faggiano highlighted as deciding factors in the loss.
“It’s not that Cortland was marching down the field on 11-play drives and putting up touchdowns. It was the big plays. Too many. We have to limit our mental breakdowns,” Faggiano said.
Turnovers, big plays, penalties, and injuries are what ultimately hurt UC’s chances of coming out with a victory. Five penalties against the Pioneers totaled 60 yards in favor of Cortland.
The ground game also took a huge hit with the loss of junior starting running back Ryan Burnett to an ankle injury early in the first half. It left freshman standout Malcolm Stowe as the lone running back 100 percent healthy. Therefore, he was tasked with carrying the load for the Pioneers’ ground attack. His 38 carries on the night was the second most in school history. Stowe finished with career-highs, 155 yards and two touchdowns. He has drawn the attention of Faggiano for sure.
“He’s a tough runner. His style of running really fits our offense and what we want to do between the tackles,” Faggiano said.
The receiving core did their normal duties downfield also. Both Greg Palmer and Jerred Beniquez amassed 100 yards on the day. Beniquez added a touchdown to his stat column and also had a 67-yard kickoff return almost go the distance. Alex DeRusso also finished with 83 yards and a score.
Although it looks bad on the scoreboard, UC’s defense actually played well. Cortland was just 6-of-14 on third downs and gained only 169 yards on the ground. The Red Dragons did get 373 yards from their passing attack on the night. They also went 7-7 in the red zone on the day, surely a recipe for success.
UC fought hard but came up a little short. Not much time to dwell on it with Ithaca coming into town on Saturday. The Pioneers look to keep their Empire 8 championship hopes alive with a victory in front of the UC faithful.