August 27, 2012
Dragons take big early hit
Top WR Babin injured
Injuries are a part of football, as SUNY Cortland is all too well aware of by now.
Still, that doesn’t take the sting away from the loss of leading wide receiver John Babin this past Saturday when the Red Dragons hosted a scrimmage tune-up against the University of Rochester.
After coming up with a typically acrobatic catch of a 31-yard sideline pass from starting quarterback Chris Rose, leaping to snatch that throw away from a defender poised for an interception, Babin’s crash landing resulted in a broken collarbone estimated to keep him sidelined for the next eight to 10 weeks.
“Isn’t that sad. It’s not good when you lose a great player like that,” said Cortland head coach Dan MacNeill after Babin went down just a week prior to this coming Saturday’s noontime non-conference season-opener at Buffalo State.
The junior out of Warwick Valley High School was an honorable mention selection on the D3football.com All-America team last year when he set single-season school records with 72 receptions, 1,183 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns. He was the go-to guy in a potent passing attack that enabled the Red Dragons to finish tied for second in the New Jersey Athletic Conference while posting a 9-2 overall record.
Cortland was selected as the favorite to win the NJAC in a preseason poll of head coaches.
This will be the third consecutive season the Red Dragons have lost a vital offensive cog. Starting quarterback Dan Pitcher had to red-shirt in 2010 after an early-season torn Achilles, and in the second game a year ago starting tailback Justin Autera — coming off an 18-touchdown season where he rushed for 1,380 yards — suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Junior team captain Autera was back with the starting unit for Saturday’s scrum at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex. In a complete half of play pitting first teams against each other, Cortland scored a pair of touchdowns while keeping the Yellowjackets from the Liberty League from scoring.
A partially blocked punt by freshman Andre Green out of Indian River set up a scoring drive on Cortland’s second possession, finished off when sophomore Kordel McInnis scored on a five-yard wide receiver screen pass. In the second quarter on a third-and-long snap, QB Rose drilled a slant pass that hit Mike Humphrey in stride and enabled the senior to break free for a 48-yard touchdown.
Reserves on both sides then exchanged possessions the rest of the scrimmage, when the Red Dragons scored four more times on long-distance touchdowns. Senior tailback Dorian Myles broke off an 81-yard touchdown run, back-up quarterback Tyler Augliano out of Watertown hooked up on a 57-yard sideline touchdown pass with sophomore wide receiver Jack Delahunty, diminutive 5-foot-7 sophomore running back Matt Deiana took a screen pass 70 yards for a TD and freshman linebacker Kyle Wagner returned an intercepted pass the distance in the late going.
In kickoffs taken by both sides at the start of the scrimmage, Deiana also broke free for a TD jaunt for the Red Dragons. Deiana was a walk-on at Division I Connecticut before becoming a Cortland fresh face.
“A little sloppy,” was the initial Coach MacNeill reaction to how things went for the Red Dragons.
“We had a couple of penalties here and there, but it looked like what we accomplished before against these guys,” added MacNeill, Cortland and Rochester having been scrimmage partners for the past few seasons now. “I’m anxious to see the tape. When you score a lot of points and don’t give up any, that’s a good thing.”
A defense that put a lot of pressure on Rochester quarterbacks, and was helped out late in the half when a Yellowjacket dropped a fourth down pass that would have kept a potential scoring drive alive, was encouraging. Cortland’s defense took the biggest graduation hit from a year ago.
“You get the jitters out, facing your first opponent. You make your biggest strikes from the first game to the next,” said MacNeill, hoping that’s the case for the Buffalo State opener.
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