The Ithaca College football team raised the curtain on the 2015 season with a 38–23 victory against Union College on Sept. 5 at Frank Bailey Field.
Entering the game, the defense had a heavy responsibility to control this game with junior quarterback Wolfgang Shafer making his first collegiate start. However, it was the offense that rose to the occasion.
The Bombers’ offense got off to a quick start to the year with an 18-yard touchdown strike from Shafer to senior tight end Kyle Hastings to give the team an opening 7–0 lead.
Prior to the touchdown, Shafer completed a key fourth and five pass to junior wide out Brian Balsamo in order to keep the chains moving and set up the touchdown pass two plays later.
The defense held the Dutchmen at bay for their first two drives but surrendered a touchdown with 6:57 left in the second quarter.
However, the offense responded. This time it was senior wide receiver Josh Oliver throwing a touchdown pass on a trick play to Balsamo to put the college back on top 14–7 at halftime.
Union established the tone in the beginning of the second half with a 3:42 drive that ended with a touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Joe Vito from sophomore quarterback Dante Cioffi to knot the score at 14–14.
Once again, however, the Bombers’ offense matched the Dutchmen as Shafer led his unit down the field, whereupon freshman running back Evan Skea scampered three yards into the endzone to make the score 21–14 in favor of the college.
Later in the third quarter, Shafer would pad the squad’s lead with his second touchdown pass of the afternoon to sophomore tight end Jack Yule for a 28–14 lead.
Shafer said his teammates were the reason behind his calm demeanor under center as well as the success he had on the day.
“I think the guys around me made it really easy on me,” Shafer said. “I felt great about the game plan … It was awesome going out and having all 11 players on offense doing their job. It made the execution of the [game plan] that much easier … Hopefully we can keep that going.”
In the fourth quarter, senior kicker Max Rottenecker kicked a 39-yard field goal to raise the Bombers’ lead to 31–14. Rottenecker went one-for-two in field goals for the day.
However, the Dutchmen refused to go down without a challenge. After the Union defense sacked Shafer in the endzone for a safety to cut the Blue and Gold’s lead to 31–16, the Dutchmen got the ball right back. They marched down the field, where they would score once again on the ground game to come within eight of the Bombers’ with 3:35 left in the contest.
After a three-and-out by the South Hill squad, Union received the ball with 1:31 left in the game. With the Dutchmen driving with 0:42 to go, Oliver swooped in and intercepted Cioffi’s pass as senior defensive back Malik Morris sprinted 37 yards to the house for a game-clinching touchdown.
The Bomber’s have a bye next week before they pair against against Hobart College at 1 p.m. Sept. 19 for their home opener at Butterfield Stadium.