Pioneers survive against Kean Cougars to improve to 2-0


Photo: Kayleigh Sturtevant/ The four captains for the Utica University Pioneers walking out for the coin toss.

Ezekiel Prince, Contributing Writer

After winning the home opener against the University of Rochester, the Utica Pioneers are getting ready to suit up at home to play against the Kane University Cougars. Coming into this game, Kean lost their first game to SUNY Morrisville 10-0.

The only matchup between Kean and Utica in both programs’ history was on Sept. 11, 2021, the Pioneer won 27–7.

James Boss, WPNR 90.7FM Sports Staff Director and play-by-play commentator, who was on the call for the first two games this season for the Pioneers, says this game was a defensive grudge match.

With 1,200 people in attendance, the Pioneers defended only allowing 4.3 yards per play and neutralizing Donte Jamison and Kean’s offense. The Kean Cougars brought great defensive intensity and rough-noise mentality but it wasn’t enough to keep the Pioneers from winning 21-15 and moving to 2-0 on the season.

According to Boss, the offense for Kean and Utica couldn’t seize control of the game.

The Kean defense had Braeden Zenelovic under duress most of this game. They were able to generate six sacks on Zenelovic, Meir Pittman and Jamma Ndiaye were huge contributors to Kean’s vicious pass rush.

“Looking at this game, neither of these offenses couldn’t get anything going, it was a dominant showing by both defense units,” Boss said. “ We already knew how great the Pioneer defense was, we saw the Pioneer run defense struggle at first against RU, but in this game anytime the Kean offense tried to move the ball downfield and get points, it didn’t work unless the Pioneer were in a prevent defense.”

Utica led 7-4 after halftime, on their second drive in the third quarter the Pioneer put together a drive starting on their own 19-yard line, they drove 81 yards down the field in 9 plays. During the 7-22 connection, Zenelovic found Nate Palmer twice for a 24 and 27-yard completion on this drive.

Nate Palmer, star wide receiver and captain for the Utica University Pioneers, after earning Empire 8 Co-Player of the week honors, had another win. Palmer had six catches for 138 yards and a touchdown. He was responsible for 70 percent of Utica’s passing yards in this game. Zenelovic is a significant part of the success of the Pioneers’ passing offense.

“Zenelovic has been incredible, there is something special about his game, from his arm talent to his pocket presence, his confidence in himself and his teammates is significant,” Boss said. “His toughness, a couple times during this game he put his body on the line for first downs, it really proves how great he is and boosts the team’s confidence.

Kean in the 4th quarter attempted to push back, with a blocked punt and made a field goal attempt. Despite Donte Jamison being responsible for most of the offensive production for the Kean. Robbie Nungesser, the quarterback for Kean, had his best drives on offense of the game when Jamison was on the sideline. They fought back and scored a touchdown with nine seconds left in the game, it was too little-too last for Kean University.

The player of the game was Jimmie Warren. Making the Empire 8 All-Conference first team at the defensive line in the 2021 season, he has picked up where he left off. Onlookers believe his ability to wreck the game from multiple positions for the Pioneer’s defense is enormous.

“He was our defensive monster in our first game, he was right back at it again in this one, watching him he is so dominant disrupting on run and pass plays, the ability to get a sack and almost get a pick is impeccable,” Boss said.