Heading into Saturday’s game against SUNY Cortland, the College knew this contest would be one of the more difficult homecoming tests in recent memory. The Red Dragons were chosen in preseason to win the New Jersey Athletic Conference, were 3-0 this season, and coming off a 45-0 rout of Western Connecticut State University.
The Lions, much like every other Cortland opponent this season, proved no match for the Red Dragons, and were shut out 37-0 in front of a Lions’ Stadium packed with alumni, staff and students.
“They had a lot of talent, and when their second team came in, you didn’t notice much of a drop off,” head coach Eric Hamilton said. “They run a first-class program and make a commitment to football, and they want to be good … You can’t get yourself in a hole and come back against a team of this kind of caliber.”
The Lions fell behind early, allowing a 27-yard touchdown run by sophomore running back Justin Autera on the Red Dragons’ second drive. On the following drive, Autera caught a 14-yard score from graduate quarterback Dan Pitcher. The running back finished the game with 122 total yards and two touchdowns.
The College allowed two more trips to the end zone in the first half, both on throws from Pitcher to senior wide receiver Anthony Giuliano, and trailed 27-0 at the half after a blocked extra point following Giuliano’s first score.
“We simply failed to make the plays we’ve made all season long,” said Matt Kreider, senior defensive back and co-captain. “Fundamentally we just weren’t there.”
Things did not improve after the half. Following a 26-yard field goal, Cortland scored its final touchdown on a 56-yard pass, again to Giuliano, who finished the day with 139 yards on only four receptions and three scores.
When comparing the College to Cortland, Hamilton said, “Our kids played hard and gave us everything they had, but obviously there’s a little bit of a difference.”
The Lions netted just 91 yards on Saturday, a season low. Junior and sophomore quarterbacks Jay Donoghue and Nick Tyson were the main source of offense, combining for 40 passing yards and 25 yards on
“Our quick passing game was the only real plus for us which is something we practice very little as an offensive unit,” Donoghue said. “Most of our 91 yards came right before half because we started throwing the ball. I think we’ll continue to adjust our offense until we find something that clicks.”
After the game, Hamilton put the game in perspective.
“I told them that was a really good football team that we just played,” he said. “That team will be in the playoffs. That’s where we need to aspire to get to.”
Kreider is already looking ahead.
“Its tough, but in football you have to have a short memory and learn to move on after a game like that,” he said. “We have (Montclair State University) this week on their homecoming, and we need to focus on the challenge that is ahead.”
Bobby Olivier can be reached at email@example.com.