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Buffalo State Quarterback Casey Kacz completed 30 of 42 passes for a record 579 passing yards and a record tying five touchdown passes.
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Freshman Ryan Carney impressed in his first collegiate start with 12 receptions for 242 yards and two touchdowns.
After finishing 5-5 last season, the Buffalo State football team was ranked fifth on the Empire 8 Football Preseason Poll, but after the opening game against Cortland, the Bengals will likely get more respect.
The Bengals put up a record of 706 total offensive yards in a 49-31 statement win over the Cortland Red Dragons, who were the favorites to win the NJAC according to the preseason polls. The former record was 702 yards, which Buffalo State achieved last season in an 82-17 win over Western Connecticut State.
Buffalo State quarterback Casey Kacz completed 30 of 42 passes, setting a record with 579 passing yards and tying a record with five touchdown passes. His longest pass of the day came on the Bengals’ first possession as a 68-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Caesarae Lewis to give the Bengals an early 7-0 lead just 57 seconds into the game.
“We decided before the game, if they wanted to go one-on-one with Caesarae, Medley, Carney or any one of our players one-on-one with no safety over the top we were going to take it,” said Kacz. “Anytime they came to the ball and I saw they were going to go man-to-man with one of our outside receivers, we decided we were going to run a go passed them or some sort of double move to go deep, but scoring on the first drive gave the whole team confidence including the defense.”
Cortland responded on their first drive of the game as quarterback Chris Rose threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Mike Humphrey to create a 7-7 tie with 11:25 left in the first quarter.
Both teams turned the ball over on their second possession as running back Rich Pete lost a fumble and cornerback Chris Hall forced the first of five Rose interceptions.
“We’re brand new back there,” said head coach Jerry Boyes. “They’re feeling their way a little bit. I think we had some errors in the first half. I think the coaches did a great job of correcting those errors and all of that and we had some kids make some big plays like Chris Hall.”
The Bengals next possession resulted in a 32-yard touchdown run by Pete to give Buffalo State a 14-7 lead with 4:18 left in the first quarter before the Red Dragons marched down the field and tied the game at 14-14 on a three-yard touchdown pass from Rose to Humphrey with just 15 seconds left in the first quarter.
Buffalo State went three-and-out on their next possession, but another interception by Hall helped set up a four-yard touchdown pass from Kacz to wide receiver Ryan Carney to give the Bengals a 21-14 lead with 11:12 left in the second quarter. However, a 42-yard kick return by Justin Autera gave Cortland great field position and they capitalized with a 23-yard touchdown pass from Rose to Kordel McInnis to make the score 21-21 with 10:35 left in the second quarter.
Kacz answered back with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Lewis to give Buffalo State a 28-21 lead with 8:23 left in the second quarter.
“It was a spark for the team,” Lewis said. “It’s something me and the quarterback worked on the whole week of practice. We stayed after practice throwing deep balls all day and that’s what happens.”
Buffalo State had another chance to add to their lead after forcing Cortland to punt, but an interception by Kacz in the red zone kept the score 28-21 at halftime.
Cortland kicker Mike DeBole kicked a 32-yard field goal on their opening possession to make it 28-24, but Kacz found Lewis again for a 25-yard touchdown pass to widen their lead 35-24.
Both teams traded punts, before Hall grabbed his record-tying third interception setting up another Bengals’ punt.
Cortland ended the third quarter with a controversial 79-yard touchdown pass from Rose to Humphrey to get to within 35-31.
“There’s a little bit of adversity there on that long pass play where people thought it was down and it was ruled not,” Boyes said. “A lot of our people said that he rolled over the top of him, but his legs never went down. There was a little bit of adversity and we stared it in the face and overcame that.”
On the Bengals’ next possession, Pete caught a 46-yard pass from Kacz to put Buffalo State in Cortland territory, but it was a fourth-and-eight conversion with a 21-yard pass from Kacz to Carney that kept the momentum on the Bengals’ side before Pete finished the drive with a one-yard touchdown run, making the score 42-31 with 10:41 left.
Buffalo State’s defense stepped up in the fourth quarter forcing a three-and-out on Cortland’s next possession before Kacz threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to Carney to put the Bengals ahead 49-31 with 8:04 left in the game. The next two Cortland possessions would result in interceptions by Matt Wesoloski and Eddie Weiser.
Carney who earned his first collegiate start after Mike Doherty suffered a season-ending injury, finished the game with 12 receptions for 242 yards and two touchdowns while Lewis had seven receptions 156 yards and a record-tying three touchdowns. Pete led the ground attack with 12 carries for 103 yards and two touchdowns.
“Coming in, I hadn’t played football in two years and my last game I had 200 yards, so I just wanted to pick up from there,” said Carney. “I didn’t think I was going to pick up that much, but I just wanted to come out here and make plays and get a victory.”
“It just kind of happened,” Carney added. “Once Mike went down, we stayed after practice and we talked a lot. We didn’t really run too many routes together, but we went over all of the signals and we were on the same page.”
Buffalo State will face Brockport on the road next Saturday at 1pm in the I-90 Bowl. The Bengals won the trophy last year in a 51-30 blowout victory.