UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - The Utica College football team held visiting Frostburg State to 168 yards of total offense, and posted 523 total yards of its own, en route to a convincing 41-0 victory in front of a homecoming crowd of 2,625 fans at Charles A. Gaetano Stadium on Saturday. The win, which advanced the Pioneers record to 4-2 overall and 2-1 in the Empire 8 Conference, marked UC's first shutout victory since 2003 when it topped Husson 36-0.
“I was pleased to see the defense play like we know it is capable of today,” said Head Coach Blaise Faggiano. “We put together 60 good minutes of football today and we came out with a nice win in front of a great homecoming crowd. Homecoming is a special time for the entire campus and we could not thank everyone enough for the great support here at Gaetano. We have to keep this momentum rolling headed into Hartwick next week.”
Frostburg (3-3, 1-2 E8) ran into a stingy Pioneer secondary which allowed just eight completions on 24 attempts and 72 total yards in the air. UC rebounded from last year's 44-24 loss at the hands of the Bobcats and the Pioneers have now won two consecutive games in the always competitive Empire 8 Conference.
Junior running back Jesse Baldassare racked up a career-high 134 yards rushing, including a 72 yard scamper, and he also punched in one touchdown. The 72 yard run marked the second longest run from scrimmage in program-history and he now has 645 career rushing yards (9th all-time). Senior wide receiver Jeremy Meier, who entered the game ranked fifth nationally in receiving yards per game, continued his banner year by catching six balls for 153 yards and two touchdowns. Senior quarterback Andrew Benkwitt, who was appearing in his 36th straight game, completed 18 passes for 333 yards and three touchdowns. Benkwitt now has 21 touchdown passes this year, breaking his own single-season record of 20, set back in 2010.
The Pioneers used consistent play on both sides of the ball all afternoon to earn the 41 point victory. UC scored 14 points in each of the first two quarters to earn a 28-0 lead at the half. Baldassare and Benkwitt each posted a touchdown run in the first quarter, while Meier and junior Joe Gerbino each caught a touchdown pass in the second quarter. Baldassare was also impressive in the receiving game, catching five balls for 80 yards.
The second half was much of the same as the Pioneers outscored the visitors 3-0 in the final 30 minutes of play. Meier opened the second half with his second touchdown grab of the day, while freshman kicker Thomas Woodburn had his coming out party, knocking down two field goals of 30 and 39 (career-long/ tied for fifth longest in school-history) yards to seal the victory for UC. Woodburn was also a perfect 5-for-5 in extra point opportunities. 11 points scored marked the most by a kicker in the program's 12 year history.
Senior defensive end Michael Herberger moved into sole possession of fourth place on the College's all-time sack list after notching two solo sacks. Herberger, who now has nine career sacks, also tied for the team lead with seven tackles on the day. Sophomore linebacker Jon Treen made the most of his appearance at linebacker, totaling seven tackles, while senior captains Genaro Scampone and Luke Manolescu each registered an interception.
Junior linebacker Dana Christofferson added six tackles for UC, while Shawn Mitchell and Anthony Cipoletti each chipped in with five.
Frostburg totaled 96 yards on the ground, including 80 from the legs of JD Hook on 20 carries. Antonio Wood led the Bobcats with four catches for 36 yards.
Prior to the start of the game Utica College President Dr. Todd Hutton, Athletic Director Dave Fontaine and Head Football Coach Blaise Faggiano met on the field with John and Robbie Kaczmarski, the parents of former UC football player 'Big” John Kaczmarski for a special check presentation. Their son John Kaczmarski was a proud Utica College Football student-athlete who passed away on February 10, 2008. The Kaczmarski family presented President Hutton with a $25,000 check which will go towards creating a scholarship for a Utica College student in their son John's name.
“We cannot thank the Kaczmarksi family enough for their support of the College over the years,” said Faggiano. “They hold a special place in our hearts here at UC and we were excited to have them back on campus to celebrate homecoming with us.”
In addition to the generous check presentation, Andrew O'Bryan, a 14 year football player from Weedsport, who plays with a prosthetic leg and is currently battling Osteosarcoma, was an honorary captain for the afternoon and walked out with the Pioneers for the coin toss before the contest. O'Bryan joined UC on the sidelines throughout the game with his mother Amy, and her sons Adam (8) and Alex (17).
UC returns to action Saturday at Hartwick. The contest is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.