November 25, 2013
Dragons unable to rally past Alfred in the snow
ALFRED — After giving up two early touchdowns, SUNY Cortland was unable to come back against Alfred University’s defense and Mother Nature in Saturday’s ECAC North Central Bowl championship contest.
The Red Dragons concluded the season with a 21-14 loss at Alfred’s Yunevich Stadium, unable to come all the way back after heavy snowfall arrived at halftime. In the second half under adverse conditions, the two sides combined for just 121 yards of offense and punted the football seven times.
After finishing third in the New Jersey Athletic Conference in the regular season before knocking off nationally-ranked Ithaca College 28-24 the previous weekend in the annual Cortaca Jug game, Cortland closed out a 6-5 season making a ninth consecutive post-season appearance.
After sharing second place in the Empire 8 Conference standings, Alfred finished up 8-3 while making a 10th consecutive post-season appearance.
Alfred led 21-7 at halftime and finished with a slight 277-256 edge in in total yardage, as neither team could do much after intermission. Part of the Alfred offense included two catches from Isiah Young covering nine yards — Young a junior tight end out of Groton Central.
The only second half touchdown was scored by the Red Dragons in the third quarter, coming after Alfred muffed a punt snap to enable the visitors to take over at the Saxons’ 17-yard line. Quarterback Tyler Hughes had to complete a clutch fourth-down pass to senior running back Justin Autera to the two to keep that scoring chance going, with Autera plunging into the end zone on the next play. That pulled the Red Dragons within 21-14 with just under eight minutes to play in the third quarter.
Neither team mounted much offense after that as the snow piled up.
Cortland’s best chance to tie the game came with just over three minutes left in the third. After taking possession at their own 48 after an Alfred punt, the Red Dragons drove to the Alfred 30. That’s when Hughes was intercepted at the Alfred 5-yard line by junior free safety Michael Perkins.
Cortland punted on its next two possessions and on its final drive had the ball near midfield before Alfred senior cornerback Andre McCloud intercepted Hughes at the Saxons’ 22-yard line with 44 seconds remaining.
It was a much different story in the first half, during which the two sides combined for 412 yards of offense.
The Saxons looked to run away with the game early as they forced a three-and-out on Cortland and then drove 59 yards in three plays, with senior tailback Tyler DeRosa scoring on an 11-yard run 2:22 into the contest. Freshman quarterback Tyler Johnson had a 48-yard run on second-and-10 to set up DeRosa’s score.
Alfred scored on its next possession to take a two-touchdown lead, driving 53 yards in seven plays. Senior tailback Austin Dwyer capped the drive with an 11-yard touchdown run with 3:09 left in the first.
Cortland came back with 4:40 left in the opening quarter, as Tyler Hughes scored on a 1-yard sneak on third down to cap a 7-play, 69-yard drive. Hughes’ 48-yard pass to junior wideout John Babin to the Alfred 3-yard line was the big play of the drive.
Alfred used a long 80-yard drive that consumed 5:55 of the second-quarter clock, with Johnson scoring on a 1-yard rush with just 30 seconds left in the half to put the hosts up 21-7. Johnson’s 18-yard run on third down from the Cortland 40 kept the drive alive.
Dwyer ran for 59 yards on 17 carries with one touchdown and caught a pair of passes for 20 yards en route to being named the game’s Most Outstanding Player. Johnson finished with 105 yards on 12-of-20 passing and ran for 57 yards and a TD on 18 carries. Senior wide receiver Josh Phillips caught four passes for 30 yards, while senior fullback Chuck Beckwith caught three balls for 31 yards.
Hughes completed 15-of-31 passes for 132 yards with two interceptions while also rushing for a game-high 68 yards on 14 carries. Autera finished with 32 yards on 11 attempts and Babin caught 10 passes for 104 yards.
Nine of Babin’s receptions came in the first half.
Cortland sophomore safety Frank Tucek had a game-high 13 tackles and was named the NJAC Defensive Player of the Week. Sophomore linebacker Troy Beddoe recorded eight tackles, including two sacks. Junior linebacker Jesse Scanna also had a sack and junior defensive lineman Joe DeLuca was in on nine stops for the Red Dragons.
DRAGON TALES: Babin broke his own school single-season records with 82 catches and 1,276 receiving yards. He also set a school season record with seven 100-yard receiving games… Babin moved into second place at Cortland with 155 career receptions; he is already Cortland’s career leader with 2,486 receiving yards and 30 receiving TDs… Babin’s streak of eight straight games with a TD reception ended. He caught a 48-yard pass in the first quarter but was tackled at the 3-yard line… Senior Autera finishes his Cortland career with 2,596 rushing yards to rank third in that category. He moved into sole possession of third place at Cortland in career scoring with 198 points with his third-quarter touchdown… Hughes finished the season with 621 net rushing yards, the most ever in a season by a Cortland quarterback… Cortland is 6-5 in ECAC Bowl Games – 5-1 at home and 1-4 on the road.
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