MORRISVILLE, N.Y. – Visiting Utica College scored their fourth and final touchdown midway through the final quarter to take the lead and seal the opening Empire 8 victory over host Morrisville State College Saturday night in Morrisville by a final 28-21 on Drake Field.
Morrisville State falls to 0-2 on the year, 0-1 in conference play. Utica remains undefeated at 3-0, collecting their first win in Empire 8 action.
The Mustangs registered 294 yards on the ground, 391 total offensive yards, on the night as junior Darrel West (Syracuse, N.Y.) posted a collegiate high 294 yards rushing, posting all three scores for Morrisville State in the loss.
Cory Benedetto (Rochester, N.Y.) completed 9-of-20 passes for 97 yards in the soggy night, four to junior Joseph Faniel (Clyde, N.Y.) for 28 yards. Marcus Jackson-Conner (Sodus, N.Y.) caught three for 55 yards to assist the Mustangs.
Defensively, Wallace Stephens (Kingston, N.Y.) led the efforts with 12 total stops, three solo, while Kendall Clarke (Brooklyn, N.Y.) added nine total tackles, six solo, holding Utica to just 313 yards total offense.
Most of the Pioneers offensive game came in the air as Teddy ValGalen connected on 18-of-31 attempts for 193 yards and a score, hitting Imani Vincent five times for 73 yards and a score.
Ryan Burnett collected 78 yards of Utica's total 120, carrying the ball 19 times for the Pioneers on the night.
Juwan Wilson led Utica with 10 total tackles, three solo, while teammates Anthony Bierria and Dehstin Smart each added eight.
On the opening drive, West snuck around the left corner and posted a 22-yard gain to set up his first of three scores on the night, a three-yard rushing touchdown two plays later for the early lead. Jeff Groth (Shelton, Conn.) converted the point after for the 7-0 host advantage.
Utica had a chance on the ensuing possession to get on the board, but the 35 yard field goal attempt sailed wide left.
The Pioneers, however, would regain possession of the ball on the next Mustang drive as Anthony Beaubrun intercepted Benedetto and returned the ball 21 yards into Morrisville State territory, leading to the equalizing score on a five yard rush for Lindell Reed two minutes later.
Early in the second quarter, Utica took advantage of a botched punt attempt and gained possession of the ball on the Mustangs 20 yard line, and following two broken tackles, Reed went up center to give the Pioneers the 14-7 lead.
The Morrisville State defensive unit pinned Utica deep within their own territory, and forced the Pioneers to punt on the ensuing possession, where Jackson-Conner returned the ball 23 yards to the Utica 45.
Following three straight carries, West found a hole on the right and broke two tackles and dove for the right pylon to cap off the five play, 45-yard drive with a 26-yard scoring run, evening the contest at 14.
On the opening drive of the third quarter, a downed Utica punt pinned the Mustangs on their own one yard line. Three straight carries by West gave Morrisville State an 11 yard cushion, before West bounced off the line and broke three tackles as he scrambled 89 yards for the 21-14 advantage.
That lead quickly disappeared though, in keeping with the theme of the night, as Utica tied the game for a third time with a 99-yard kick-off return for a touchdown. Nick Gambill found a hole on the right and had a wide open field as he collected the special teams score.
Midway through the fourth quarter, VanGalen hit Vincent for a first down at Morrisville State's three yard line, setting up a three-yard pass on the next play for the 28-21 Pioneer lead.
Morrisville State had a chance to respond to Utica's touchdown tally, but failed to move the ball past the 50 as Benedetto got swallowed in the pocket for a sack and a loss of six yards on fourth down.
The Mustangs return to the field next Saturday, traveling to Buffalo State College. Kick off is scheduled for 12 p.m. in Buffalo.
Morrisville State College's curricula are enriched with applied learning and pave the way for opportunity at both the Morrisville and Norwich campuses. An action-oriented, interactive learning lab, the college is a national leader in technology and has been lauded for its exemplary, innovative and effective community service programs.
The college was ranked among the Best Regional Colleges in the North by U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges 2016 issue and was also recognized in the Top Public Schools, Regional Colleges North in the 2016 Best Colleges rankings. For more information about Morrisville State College, visit www.morrisville.edu.