It’s senior day for the football team (5–3 overall, 3–3 Empire 8) as it hosts Hartwick College (3–5 overall, 0–5 Empire 8) Saturday afternoon at Butterfield Stadium.
Avoiding a letdown
The Bombers are coming off an upset win against 7th-ranked Salisbury University last week. They are as heavily favored against a Hartwick team that received just seven points in the preseason coaches’ poll as the Sea Gulls were favored over the Blue and Gold last week. The Hawks have lost their last 12 conference games by an average of 18 points. While that may seem underwhelming, they have pushed teams to the brink, losing five of the games by a touchdown or less. Head Coach Mark McDonough said the Bombers can’t afford to get sloppy.
“We know that Hartwick is a very good football team. We have to prepare well to beat them,” McDonough said. “I haven’t noticed any change from the kids in a lack of focus.”
Speaking of sloppy…
Butterfield Stadium is the only stadium in the Empire 8 to have natural grass. In last week’s game against Salisbury, the field was beaten up and slippery, which severely affected the rushing game of both teams. After this week’s rain, the field is in a dodgy state once again. McDonough said he is not concerned about the rain’s potential effects on his team.
“This is Ithaca, and we’re used to having weather,” McDonough said. “Our kids are used to playing on grass surface, and we’ve practiced several times on grass that has been less than ideal.”
Sloppy fields can serve as a great equalizer. Just ask Salisbury.
If the game is as sloppy as the conditions suggest it may be, turnovers will be a factor. The Hawks are last in the Empire 8 with a turnover differential of minus eight. The Bombers are tied for fourth with a plus one differential. The Hawks are going through the same quarterback issues the Bombers did last year and have given three different quarterbacks a chance to start. The current starter is sophomore Andrew Bashford, who was 11 for 22 passing for 215 yards in the Hawks’ 27-24 loss to Buffalo State.
De facto title game
Salisbury will look to rebound after losing to the Bombers when they face Utica College in Maryland. All signs from there indicate that the game is set to go after Hurricane Sandy hit the Delmarva Peninsula earlier this week. The Sea Gulls (6–2 overall, 4–1 Empire 8) can clinch their second straight Empire 8 title with a win. The Pioneers (6–2 overall, 4–1 Empire 8) can clinch the conference title with a win and a St. John Fisher loss. The winner of the game in Maryland will be the one whose offense is more successful. The Pioneers’ passing attack means that they can score quickly, which will help, because the rushing attack of the Sea Gulls will likely help Salisbury win the time of possession battle.