UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - The Utica College football team fell into an early 20-0 first quarter hole and could never quite crawl back into the contest as visiting St. John Fisher College (7-3, 4-3 Empire 8) handed the Pioneers' a 55-20 loss in the regular season finale for both squads on Saturday at Charles A. Gaetano Stadium. Both teams will now await a bid to an ECAC Bowl game, which will be released Monday, and kick off next weekend. If the Pioneers do a receive a bowl bid it would be their first in program-history and they would likely have to travel.
“Fisher had our number from the start today. I have to hand it to them, they played a mistake-free game,” said Head Coach Blaise Faggiano. “Now we have to wait for the Bowl bids to come out, which is an exciting position for our program to be in. Of course we wanted to come out and get a win against Fisher today, but at the same time we have so many successes to celebrate from this season. These guys are a part of one of the best teams in school-history -- arguably the best team -- so that is certainly something for our seniors to take away.
Utica wrapped up its regular season with a 6-4 overall record (six wins ties the school-record) and a program-best 4-3 mark in conference play. Senior wide receiver Jeremy Meier extended his school-records in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns by catching seven balls for 108 yards and two touchdowns.
Senior quarterback Andrew Benkwitt, who was starting in his 40th consecutive game, completed 29 passes for 267 yards and two touchdowns. Benkwitt also threw an uncharacteristic four interceptions. He will graduate as the College's most prolific passer, posting career numbers unlike any other quarterback in program-history.
Junior running back Jesse Baldassare wrapped up the regular season with his fifth 100 yard rushing game of the season (4th in five weeks), as he totaled 103 yards on 25 carries and a touchdown.
As a team, Fisher cruised from the opening kickoff, taking control in the first half with four touchdowns, three interceptions and a fumble recovery. Ryan Kramer finished the game with four passing touchdowns, which tied a career-high that was set against the University of Rochester in last year's Courage Bowl. Kevin Francis finished with a career-high 136 yards on five receptions. Cody Miller led the Cardinals with 79 yards on the ground on just 11 carries.
Joe Leavell and Zach Dolan led Fisher on the defensive side of the ball, each picking off two passes. Mason Judd and Bryant Moore each had a sack on back-to-back plays, while Moore also recovered a Utica fumble on a punt. Mike Donitzen had a team-high 10 tackles and also forced a fumble.
Fisher had 519 yards on 63 plays for an 8.2 yards per play average, while Utica had 358 yards.
Fisher's consistent pressure on both sides of the balls persisted through the first three quarters as their lead was extended to as many as 48 points, 55-7, with 1:00 left in the third quarter. UC was able to muster two scores in the final 15 minutes, both on connections from Benkwitt to Meier.
Sean Hulser led the Pioneers with a career-best 11 tackle effort, while linebacker Dana Chrisofferson added another ten tackle performance. Senior defensive lineman Jerrod Clowes added four tackles and one sack in his final regular season game in the blue and orange.