In a riveting conference matchup, the College was unable to hang with SUNY Cortland as the Red Dragons pulled away late to win the contest 42-28.
It seemed like the Lions (2-3) were in a position to take control of the game at times, but the offense was inefficient and Cortland simply overpowered them.
On the Red Dragons’ second drive, senior quarterback Chris Rose turned it over as senior defensive back James Siracusa came up with the interception. This would prove important as the Lions’ ensuing drive lasted 13 plays and saw a heavy dose of senior running back Justin Doniloski running hard, breaking tackles and catching passes. From two yards out, the senior plunged towards the goal line and was pushed across the plane by his teammates for six.
“Turnovers are an important part of the game,” junior defensive back Vince Nocera said. “If you don’t get turnovers, you can’t put your offense in good positions.”
The score was equaled quickly as Cortland’s senior wide receiver Mike Humphrey caught a 21-yard touchdown pass. After that, a pick-six against senior quarterback Dan Dugan made the score 14-7, and left a bad taste in the Lions’ mouths.
The next drive for Cortland was actually a breath of fresh air for the Lions. Senior defensive back Zach Friedrich was targeted twice in man coverage with a big pass, something the College has struggled mightily against all year, but was able to break up both passes.
“We’ve just been getting at it at practice,” Nocera said. “Everybody’s been on our butts all week that we can’t give up the big pass, so we’ve been working hard at practice to avoid it.”
However, the next drive ended in a 33-yard Cortland score for sophomore wide receiver Jack Delahunty, showing that there is still work to be done.
Nearing the end of the first half, the College was in the hurry-up offense desperate for a score. Although Dugan was sacked, a 25-yard pass to junior wide receiver Fred Sprengel set up a 6-yard bulldozing touchdown run by Doniloski.
As efficient as they were on the scoring drive to end the first half, the Lions may have been even better to open the second half. Dugan got going with a 24-yard run on the first offensive play. The entire drive consisted of only run plays until the last one, which was ironically a screen pass that Sprengel took 26 yards to the house. More hard running by Doniloski enabled the College to pull even with their opponents.
Later on, madness ensued that started with a Doniloski fumble. The Red Dragons found themselves in field-goal range, but ran a fake and tossed it into the end zone, which drew a pass interference call and great field position. Then when they scored the touchdown, it was negated by a holding call. Finally, junior linebacker Nick Bricker recovered a Cortland fumble.
While it seemed like momentum was now on the Lions’ side, they were forced to punt. After that, the Red Dragons began to pile it on, scoring three consecutives touchdowns. In between the Cortland scores, the College’s offense just could not get into a rhythm. They looked a bit slower than usual and could not take advantage of Cortland penalties. Dugan was able to score on a 3-yard touchdown run, but by then the game was out of reach.
It wasn’t an easy pill to swallow, but the Lions showed some promise against a tough Cortland team. They need to continue getting better and prepare for their next game on Saturday at Montclair State University.
“We played a good team,” Nocera said. “We didn’t win, but we didn’t back down and kept coming at them. They were physical, but we matched their physicality. Hopefully it’s a lesson to keep playing.”