February 6, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 36°F


Zeroing In: Previewing Bombers football vs. Utica College

The football team (3–0 overall, 1–0 Empire 8) will put its undefeated record to the test against the Utica College Pioneers (2–1) tomorrow at 1 p.m. at Butterfield Stadium.

Battle of the duos

While the Bombers have the connection between junior quarterback Phil Neumann and senior wide receiver Joe Ingrao, the Pioneers have their own quarterback and receiver pair in senior quarterback Andrew Benkwitt and senior wide receiver Jeremy Meier. Meier has caught 19 of Benkwitt’s 68 completions. Both Benkwitt and Meier are in the Division III national rankings for passing and receiving. Benkwitt is ranked 15th nationally in passing yards per game, while Meier is 6th in the country in receiving yards per game.

Two branches of the Butterfield tree

Ithaca Head Coach Mike Welch and Pioneer Head Coach Blaise Faggiano ’93 both contributed to the last National Championship for the Bombers in 1991, with Welch serving as an assistant coach and Faggiano as a player. Faggiano went on to coach under Welch in the mid-’90s and helped lead the Bombers to three postseason appearances in four years.

Welch said he has nothing but respect for Faggiano.

“He does it the right way,” Welch said. “He truly has a sincere interest in his players. He wants them to do well on the football field as well as in school and in life.”

The past is the past

Last year, the Pioneers scored 20 second-half points to beat the Bombers for the first time ever. The loss was one of four losses by a margin of five points or fewer for the Blue and Gold in 2011. Despite the loss, revenge is not the Bombers’ goal. Junior quarterback Phil Neumann said only Saturday’s game is on the team’s mind.

“We’re not playing for last year or anything like that,” Neumann said. “Just because they beat us last year doesn’t change anything now. We’re just trying to win on Saturday, get the conference win and move on.”

Down and out?

After a stunning 40-17 home loss to Alfred University last weekend, Buffalo State (2–2 overall, 0–1 Empire 8) will host 11th-ranked Salisbury University (2–1 overall) at noon Saturday. The Saxons exposed the Bengals’ inability to stop the run, gaining 401 yards on the ground. The Sea Gulls have made a living off of their triple option running attack that has averaged more than 342 yards per game, good for 3rd-best in the nation. All signs point to a win for the Sea Gulls that would basically knock the Bengals out of Empire 8 contention, but Empire 8 football and predictability just don’t go together.