September 13, 2010
Trio of Autera TDs lift Dragons
UNION, N.J. — This was certainly an ideal way to get the football season underway.
Starting with Justin Autera’s 85-yard touchdown return of the opening kickoff — the first of three touchdowns scored by the sophomore scatback from Mahopac — SUNY Cortland jumped out to a 17-0 first quarter lead that turned into an eventual 24-12 victory at Kean University on Saturday afternoon.
In the season-opener for both New Jersey Athletic Conference contenders, Autera also grabbed an 18-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Dan Pitcher in that opening quarter and pretty much clinched the victory with a 12-yard end zone scamper with 5:19 left to be played at Kean Alumni Stadium before a crowd of 2,354.
Autera nearly scored on a punt return, too. He was brought down on the Kean 5-yard line after a 55-yard fourth quarter effort, though the Red Dragons were unable to turn that opportunity into points.
For the game, Autera had 227 all-purpose yards. To go along with his productive kick returns, Autera carried the ball 10 times for 37 yards and caught three passes for 36 yards.
Having the Cortland defense pick off three passes thrown by dangerous opposing quarterback Tom D’Abrisi in the fourth quarter helped prevent a Cougars comeback. Senior cornerback Joe Lopez had a pair of picks, while junior inside linebacker Bill Smith halted Kean’s final possession with an interception with 2:44 left.
Cortland ran out the clock from there behind a handful of Dom Sair and Autera carries.
Autera was named NJAC Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance, while Lopez was selected the NJAC Defensive Player of the Week.
Tailback Sair led Cortland ground game with 77 yards on 21 carries, while Pitcher completed 11-of-20 passes for 179 yards. Placekicker Marc Corrado booted a 33-yard field goal that provided that early 17-zip lead for the Red Dragons.
Kean (0-1) pulled to within 17-6 on an 8-yard touchdown pass from D’Ambrisi to Louis Haynes with 4:07 left in the first half, but missed the extra point. The Cougars’ had a chance to get closer before halftime, only to have 41-yard field goal attempt blocked by Cortland senior Matt Kaufmann.
Kean cut the Cortland lead to 17-12 on tailback Jason Gwaltney’s 15-yard TD grab from a D’Ambrisi pass with 3:46 remaining in the third quarter. A low snap, however, led to a failed PAT attempt.
Cortland had a chance to add to its lead after Autera’s punt return early in the fourth quarter nearly went the distance. But a fourth down carry by Sair from the Kean 1-yard line was fumbled into the end zone. James Boyd recovering for the hosts for a touchback.
Five plays later, Lopez swiped a D’Ambrisi pass to set up the Red Dragons on the Cougars 37-yard line. A snap after Pitcher hooked up with wideout Jake Burgess on a 14-yard completion to the Kean 12, Autera covered those final yards for his third touchdown of the day with 5:19 left on the clock. Lopez and Smith followed with their interceptions to keep Kean frustrated.
D’Ambrisi finished 19-of-29 passing for 197 yards. Gwaltney ran for 77 yards on 17 carries, while Haynes and Matt Puorro caught six passes each.
Inside linebacker Cody Allen led Cortland with 10 tackles and Smith made eight stops. Defensive end Evan Wyler recorded seven tackles, two for losses. Jerelle Peay paced Kean with 11 tackles and Jamahl Williams had nine tackles and a forced fumble.
Cortland avenged a 24-10 defeat to Kean from a year ago, which is the only time the Red Dragons have lost to the Cougars. Cortland now leads the overall series by a lopsided 14-1 margin.
The Red Dragons’ home opener is this coming Saturday, Buffalo State visiting the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex for a 1 p.m. kickoff. The Bengals dropped their season opener to St. John Fisher 54-26 in a non-conference contest Saturday.
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