MORRISVILLE, N.Y. – Morrisville State made a final push in the fourth quarter to overcome the second half lead visiting Alfred University established, but fell short on one play as the Saxons claimed a 27-22 Empire 8 final on Drake Field in Morrisville.
The Mustangs took a 7-0 lead early on in the opening quarter, taking the opening kick-off down field for 65 yards in eight plays as senior quarterback Brandon Gwinner (Schenectady, N.Y.) hit tight end Petrit Boga (Bronx, N.Y.) on the 20-yard slant pass for the touchdown score. Boga got behind the Alfred defense and easily crossed the goal line without being touched for the score.
Alfred answered back on the ensuing possession, but the touchdown was called back due to a holding penalty whistled against its offensive line. The Mustangs forced the punt, but the ball hit the hand of the Morrisville State defender and fumbled into the arms of a Saxon to regain possession and a new set of downs for the visitors. Alfred capitalized two plays later with an eight-yard run from lead running back Nasir Smith to make it a 7-6 ball game.
On the following Morrisville State drive, an unsportsmanlike penalty backed the Mustangs up and were forced to punt, but the ball sailed through the hands of the waiting Alfred kick returner, and Kyle Tuohy (Amaranth, Ontario) was able to fall on the ball, regaining possession for the hosts on the Alfred 47 yard line.
Within six plays, Gwinner found Darrel West (Syracuse, N.Y) on the screen to the right and into the end zone, extending the Mustangs lead to 14-6 with 2:53 to go in the first.
Defense for Morrisville State was a huge factor on the next Alfred possession, forcing the three-and-out with a punt attempt, but the snap sailed high over the hands of kicker Ben Sennett who proceeded to kick the ball through the end zone for the Mustang safety.
The remainder of the opening quarter was a tale of turnovers, as Gwinner had one intercepted, but the Mustang defense forced an Alfred penalty on their next drive to regain possession heading into the second quarter.
Morrisville State pinned Alfred back on their own one as the Saxons began the second quarter, but an unsportsmanlike penalty gave the visitors some room and Ben Burk took advantage, marching the visitors 83-yards downfield, capping off the nine-play drive with a 21-yard scoring pass play to Smith who was left wide open in the left corner for the touchdown.
Morrisville State took the 16-13 lead into the half, but it was Alfred that came out in the third quarter with momentum that led to a 67-yard scoring drive on their opening possession.
The Saxons faced a fourth down situation in which the pass fell incomplete to turn over the ball to the Mustangs on downs, but they gained a new opportunity as Morrisville State was flagged for a roughing the passer penalty. Burk then handed off to Smith who pushed the pack forward across the goal line for the first Saxon lead of the contest 20-16, on the seven yard scoring play.
Morrisville State attempted to respond on the following drive, utilizing the snag by running back Nick Edmond (Blythe, Calif.) for a 39 yard gain, but were stopped short as Alfred had a goal line stop and forced the turn over on downs. Edmond powered his way forward, dragging five Alfred defenders with him down to the five yard line before the Mustangs were stopped at the two.
Alfred extended their lead to 27-16 early in the fourth with a 98-yard scoring drive capped off with a 17-yard rushing score by Smith, but Morrisville State wouldn't go away silently.
After Alfred picked off Gwinner a second time, Boga forced the fumble on the interception return, recovering the ball, and giving new life to the Mustangs in front of their home crowd. Gwinner scrambled up center for the five yard rushing score, cutting the lead to five with 4:51 to go in the final quarter.
On the ensuing Alfred drive attempt, junior safety Michael Bodnar (Miller Place, N.Y.) dropped Smith for a loss of four, and forced the three-and-out, returning possession to the Mustangs with 2:44 to go in the contest.
Gwinner struck quick, hitting wide receiver Ryan Zophy (Canastota, N.Y.) with the one-handed grab along the home sideline for the 24-yard gain, and after driving into Alfred territory, three straight passes fell short to force a fourth down situation for the Mustangs.
On fourth and 10, Gwinner scrambled out of the pocket after not being able to find an open receiver and came within inches of the first down, but the sticks measured just short and turned the ball over to the Saxons who claimed the conference win.
- Final Score: Alfred University 27, Morrisville 22 (halftime: Morrisville 16-13)
- Location: Drake Field, Morrisville, N.Y.
- Records: Alfred 3-1 (2-0 E8), Morrisville 2-2 (0-1 E8)
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- Morrisville State outgained Alfred in total offense 371-310, with 228 yards coming in the game through the air, compared to Alfred's 50.
- Brandon Gwinner (Schenectady, N.Y.) was 20-for-38 for 228 yards and two touchdowns, adding 84 yards in the running game for a touchdown.
- Senior Nick Edmond (Blythe, Calif.) tallied 59 net yards in 17 carries on the ground, adding another 53 on three catches.
- Senior Raffaele Bradshaw (Westbury, N.Y.) led all receivers with 86 yards on 10 receptions, with a longest gain of 22 yards.
- Junior safety, Michael Bodnar (Miller Place, N.Y.) registered a collegiate high 17 stops in the defensive efforts for the Mustangs, 10 solo, while recording a tackle for a loss of four yards.
- Senior linebacker John Shirley (Sandy Creek, N.Y.) added a best eight with freshman Joe Miller-LaBar (Groton, N.Y.) adding seven stops and a forced fumble in the efforts for the Mustang defense.
- Nasir Smith powered his way to 190 net yards on 32 carries for Alfred, collecting three touchdowns, while adding another score on a 21-yard reception.
- Quarterback Ben Burk was 7-for-10 for 50 yards.
- Nick Milgate and Cole Reed were lead tacklers for the Saxon defense, recording 13 and 11, respectively.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT:
- Morrisville State heads to Cortland next Saturday for a noon Empire 8 kick off.
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 & World Report Best Colleges 2018 issue and was also recognized in the Top Public Schools, Regional Colleges North in the 2018 Best Colleges rankings. For more information about Morrisville State College, visit www.morrisville.edu.