Bengals Keep Their ECAC-Bowl Bid Hopes Alive

Bengals Keep Their ECAC-Bowl Bid Hopes Alive
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Hartwick led 24-13 with less than ten minutes left in the game, but the Bengals stepped up to the challenge on a wet and windy day, scoring two touchdowns, including the game-winner with 33 seconds left in a 27-24 victory over the Hawks.
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It looked like Hartwick was going to pull off an upset, but a fumble by RB Joseph Rosiecki was recovered by LB/S Scott Koen, setting up the game-winning drive.

Entering Homecoming and Senior Day, the Buffalo State football team knew they had to find a way to snap their three-game losing streak at home, but it wasn’t going to be easy.

Hartwick led 24-13 with less than ten minutes left in the game, but the Bengals stepped up to the challenge on a wet and windy day, scoring two touchdowns, including the game-winner with 33 seconds left in a 27-24 victory over the Hawks.

“In the second half, I thought the defense played a much better ballgame,” head coach Jerry Boyes said. “I was very concerned because offensively we had a couple of short fields in the second half right away and we didn’t score. I was worried that it was going to come back to haunt us, but this is a crazy game and you never know.”

In the first half, the Hawks jumped out to an early 7-0 lead on the opening possession with a 25-yard touchdown run by running back Joseph Rosiecki to cap off a six-play 61-yard drive. Buffalo State responded with a 16-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ryan Lehotsky to Sherman Nelson.

“Our first drive, I knew we had to come back and make a big play to make it 7-7,” Nelson said. “I did an inside move and ran a corner route. Lehotsky threw a great ball and I just put my hands on it and didn’t look back and scored the touchdown.”

Following a failed 4th-and-1 attempt at the Buffalo State 43-yard line, the Hawks defense forced a three-and-out by the Bengals. Hartwick retook the lead on the first play of the second quarter with a 1-yard touchdown run by Rosiecki. It ended an 8-play 100-yard drive, the longest of their season.

After a series of possessions ending in punts for both teams, Hartwick extended their lead to 21-7 with a 27-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Andre Bashford to wide receiver Chris Hoose.

Buffalo State cut the deficit to 21-13 with a 45-yard touchdown run by running back Rich Pete, but a missed extra point by kicker Nate Benoit kept it an eight-point lead.

“My first run sparked it for us and it let us know that we could easily get to the edge to score a touchdown and that’s what we did,” Pete said. “My fullback said ‘I’m going to kick him out, make the cut and we should score. Just do your thing.’”

Hartwick started their nine-play, 53-yard drive with 1:16 left in the first half and ended it with a 37-yard field goal by kicker Alex Tesoriero on the final play before halftime. The field goal was set up a roughing the passer penalty called on defensive tackle Dez Howard with no time left and the Hawks led 24-13 heading into the break.

Coming out of halftime, the Bengals were forced to punt on their first possession, but Matt Hauser recovered a fumbled return by Clyde Miller and Buffalo State was back in business at the Hartwick 18-yard line. Three plays later, Benoit attempted a 33-yard field, but it ended up short.

Neither team could get anything going offensively for the rest of the third quarter.

Following a Buffalo State three-and-out at the start of the fourth quarter, the Bengals defense swung the momentum back to their side with a sack by defensive end Jahi Owens on third-and-10 to force a punt.

“I was thinking we have to give our offense another opportunity, so when I pass rushed I wasn’t actually trying to get around the guy,” Owens said. “I was trying to make sure the quarterback wouldn’t flush out and then Pasquale came in and slowed him down, so I got him.”

Lehotsky caught fire on the Bengals’ next drive and hit wide receiver John Beers with a six-yard touchdown pass before a failed two-point conversion attempt by third-string quarterback Dave Jacobs. A 46-yard pass to wide receiver Ryan Carney set up the touchdown, cutting the deficit to 24-19 with 9:04 left in the 4th quarter.

“We ran a play action and the cornerback bit hard,” Carney said. “It was a blown coverage and I was wide open. In the first half, their defense wasn’t giving me the open route, but in the second half they started backing off and we took advantage of it.“

Bashford responded with a 66-yard pass to wide receiver Tanner Williams to get to the Buffalo State 9-yard line, but the Bengals’ defense didn’t allow a score, stopping four rushing attempts. Linebacker/safety Brandon Hodgins and linebacker Pasquale Vacchio stuffed Rosiecki on 4th-and-goal at the two-yard line.

“We kept on talking about how we had to stick together and we stuck together,” Hodgins said. ”We didn’t make any adjustments. We just had to play ball. We obviously didn’t play how we were supposed to and then in the second half we shored it up.”

Lehotsky rode the momentum and completed a 43-yard pass to Carney to get the Bengals into the opposing territory, but a fumbled snap at the Hartwick 29-yard line turned the ball over as the Hawks recovered with 2:56 remaining in the game.

It looked like the Bengals were going to lose the game following a first down by Hartwick, but Rosiecki mishandled the toss from Bashford and linebacker/safety Scott Koen recovered the fumble at the Buffalo State 48-yard line with 1:41 left.

“I just came in and the guy couldn’t hold on, so I just made the play,” Koen said. “It was a sense of relief because we were able to get our offense back on the field.”

Similar to every Thursday two-minute drill practice, the Bengals drove down the field and found a way to score.

The Bengals started their game-winning drive with a Lehotsky 13-yard pass to tight end Zachary Best and a 15-yard draw by Rich Pete. With time ticking away, Lehotsky hit Carney with an 8-yard pass to get out of bounds. The next play Lehotsky hit Pete with a 16-yard touchdown pass to take the lead.

“It was just time for me to get the screen,” Pete said. “I turned around and my guys were down the field wide open. That was real big.”

With the score 25-24 and 33 seconds remaining in the game, the Bengals attempted a two-point conversion and made it three-point game when Best came down with the Lehotsky pass in the end zone.

“We ran the play where I do the fake trip, get up and run across the formation,” Best said. “I ran across the field and Ryan just found me. It worked out pretty good. We needed the two and we ran that play in the past. It just seems to work for us.”

Hartwick had a chance to comeback, but they no timeouts and the clock ran out them.

Lehotsky completed 18 of 33 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns. Pete had 112 total yards and two touchdowns, including 94 yards on the ground from just nine carries. Carney led the receivers with seven catches for 136 yards.

Buffalo State (5-4, 3-3) will look to finish the regular season on a high note at St. John Fisher (6-2, 3-2) this Saturday at noon. The Bengals have a chance to finish above .500 for the first time since 2000. The Cardinals are coming off of 21-0 victory against Frostburg where they allowed just 239 yards of total offense.

“This is a chance for us to say that we definitely have turned the corner with the program here,” Boyes said. “I don’t know how many years it’s been since we’ve had a winning season. Last year was a non-losing season at .500, so we have that in front of us and hopefully we can play well for 60 minutes next week.”