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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

September 25, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Sports

Zeroing In: Previewing Bombers football vs. Buffalo State

It’s homecoming for the football team (4–1 overall, 2–1 Empire 8) as it hosts Buffalo State (2–4 overall, 0–3 Empire 8) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Butterfield Stadium.

No room for error

The Bombers are in third place in the Empire 8 Conference, trailing behind Salisbury University and Alfred University by one game in the loss column. In conference play, there is no room for error, with only the conference winner being guaranteed a berth in the NCAA playoffs. With the Bombers having lost to Alfred last weekend, a second conference loss would all but eliminate them from conference contention. The same holds true for the three other teams with one conference loss as well.

Another test for the secondary

The Buffalo State Bengals enter Saturday’s game averaging just over 300 yards passing per game, which is second in the Empire 8 behind Utica College. The Bombers were solid defending Utica’s passing attack two weeks ago in their win, and while they gave up almost 300 yards passing to Andrew Benkwitt, 140 of those came in the fourth quarter with the Bombers playing prevent defense. When it comes to stopping Bengals junior quarterback Casey Kacz, the defensive line will have to generate the pressure with the Bengals’ spread offense taking linebackers out of blitzing positions and forcing them into coverage instead.

The tamed beast

The Bengals sent shockwaves across Division III four weeks ago when they stunned then-top-ranked University of Wisconsin-Whitewater 7-6. It was the first time in Division III football history that an unranked team defeated the top-ranked team. Since then, the wheels have fallen off. Three straight home conference losses have eliminated them from Empire 8 contention. The big issue for Head Coach Jerry Boyes is a rushing defense that has given up more than 190 yards rushing per game, the worst in the conference. That defense will be pitted up against a Bombers rushing attack that averages more than 150 rushing yards a game.

First full slate

All eight Empire 8 teams are in action tomorrow with 17th-ranked St. John Fisher College’s trip to Alfred being the headline game. The Cardinals (4–1 overall, 1–1 Empire 8), like the Bombers, know that another conference loss would almost certainly eliminate them from conference contention. If the Saxons (3–1 overall, 2–0 Empire 8) win, they would set up a huge road test with 9th-ranked Salisbury (4–1 overall, 2–0 Empire 8) next week. The Sea Gulls host Hartwick College (3–2 overall, 0–2 Empire 8) on Saturday. The last game on the Empire 8 slate has two one-loss teams as Utica hosts Frostburg State. The Pioneers defeated the Bengals last week with senior quarterback Andrew Benkwitt throwing the winning touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Andrew Meier with 13 seconds left.