UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - The nationally-ranked No. 14 Hobart College football team racked up 502 yards of total offense and scored 14 fourth quarter points, as it pulled away from host Utica College, to earn a 45-26 victory in a battle of undefeated teams at Charles A. Gaetano Stadium Saturday night. The Pioneers (2-1) trailed by just five points midway through the fourth quarter, but two timely touchdown runs of 59 yards and 18 yards by Hobart's Bobby Dougherty essentially sealed the victory for the Statesmen (3-0).
"If you were at the game I think it's easy to tell the final score was not indicative of just how close it really was," said Utica College Head Football Coach Blaise Faggiano. "Our guys gave 110% until the final whistle and you really have to hand it to Hobart for playing a solid game all around. I was proud of the way we responded to adversity -- we were in it right until the end -- and this type of game will really prepare us for the tough Empire 8 schedule that we are about to endure in the coming weeks."
The ground game was certainly working for the Statesmen, as they compiled 218 yards rushing, compared to the Pioneers' 13. However, it was huge defensive plays and another solid game from the Pioneers' passing unit that kept the contest close down the stretch. UC forced four fumbles (recovered three), blocked one punt, and senior quarterback Andrew Benkwitt, who was making his 33rd consecutive start, threw for 313 yards and three touchdowns. The Pioneers' four forced fumbles is a new program-record.
Senior classmate Paul Smith caught one of those touchdowns and, as a former quarterback, he also got in on the action by throwing a 51 yard touchdown of his own to Jeremy Meier, off a lateral from Benkwitt midway through the third quarter.
Meier finished the day with nine catches for 160 yards and two touchdowns, while Jamie Murphy caught six balls for 53 yards and added a key 30 yard touchdown grab with 6:37 to go in the third quarter to help the Pioneers' close to within four points of the lead, 24-20. Meier's 160 yards receiving ranks third all-time (single game) and he extended his program record for points scored in a career as he now has 128 career points.
Both team exchanged blows in the first quarter and the score was knotted at 7-7 after 15 full minutes of play. Dougherty scored his first of three touchdowns on the ground for Hobart, while Paul Smith caught a 36 yard touchdown for the Pioneers. Dougherty finished the night with 174 yards on 20 carries, while Whitesboro's Junior Woodard made six grabs for 161 yards but also fumbled twice.
Hobart pulled away a bit in the second quarter, punching in two consecutive scores to take a 21-7 lead headed into the locker room at the half. Yosh Karbowniczak caught a touchdown pass early in the second quarter, while quarterback Nick Strang added a two yard plunge to give the Statesmen a 14 point lead. Karbowniczak finished the day with six catches for 61 yards. Strang closed out the evening with 16 completions for 284 yards passing and two touchdowns.
UC played extremely well in the third quarter, outscoring Hobart 19-10 to pull within five points by the beginning of the fourth. All three of the Pioneers' third quarter scores came in a span of 9:21 and two of the scores came off of fumble recoveries. UC's Dana Christofferson recovered one of those fumbles. Christofferson also added a game-high 14 tackles, two of which were for a loss. Junior Joe Giametta added 13 tackles for UC, while sophomore defensive back Shawn Mitchell tied two single game records, as he forced two fumbles and broke up three passes for the Pioneers. Mitchell also added a fumble recovery.
Senior safety Luke Manolescu made ten stops and broke up one pass, as sophomore James Lenahan added six tackles, one fumble recovery and one pass break up. Senior nose guard Kyle Taft added six tackles (one for a loss) and classmate Jerrod Clowes made five stops of his own.
Tyre Coleman was a menace on the defensive line for Hobart all afternoon as he made 4.5 sacks and forced one fumble. All told, the Statesmen sacked Benkwitt ten times.
Hobart was a perfect 6-for-6 on red-zone chance inside the 20 yard line, while the Pioneers depended on the big play, as they went 1-for-1 inside the 20.
Despite a valiant effort from the Pioneers', they could not muster a score in the final 15 minutes of play, and Dougherty added two touchdown runs to give the Statesmen a 19 point lead as the final horn sounded.
UC will take a bye week off before heading to Ithaca College to open up Empire 8 Conference play on Sept. 29th at 1 p.m. Hobart returns home to Boswell Field to take on Merchant Marine next weekend at 1 p.m.