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The Student News Site of Utica University

The Tangerine

The Student News Site of Utica University

The Tangerine

Pioneers 14-0 shutout win punches ticket to ECAC Bowl game

The Pioneers with an 8-2 overall record will play Hobart College on Nov. 18 in the ECAC Clayton Champman Bowl.
Kayleigh Sturtevant
The Pioneers with an 8-2 overall record will play Hobart College on Nov. 18 in the ECAC Clayton Champman Bowl.

It was freezing at the Charles A. Gaetano Stadium when Utica shutout the St. John Fisher Cardinals 14-0 during Senior Day on Nov. 11. The Utica’s defense hounded Fisher’s offensive line from start to finish, stifling their run game and recording six sacks against their heated conference rival.

On the opening drive, the Pioneers intercepted a pass meant for Fisher Mason Payton which gave the home side an advantage on their first possession. From there, Senior Matt Brantley on the carry made it third and short inside the Cardinals’ 10. Then quarterback Sam Florio was called in; however, Fisher was able to force a fumble turning the play the other way. 

Utica’s defense picked up the offense. Pressuring Fisher’s quarterback, Aaron Chase, led to a sack and another interception, this time by Defensive Back Terrance Toussaint.

Both teams would limit their turnovers after the first three drives, however, it didn’t lead to points. The next six drives before the end of the half ended with punts with both offenses sputtering.

Utica started their second drive of the third quarter on their side of the field after Fisher failed to convert on fourth down. Brantley once more shook off numerous defenders earning 31 yards on four carries. The senior brought the Pioneers to Fisher’s 35-yard line before they went back to the passing game. This led to the turnover when DeAndre Green for the Cardinals undercut Wide Receiver Antonio Cianfarani on a slant to pick off sophomore quarterback Brett Fuller. 

A 9-yard run on third and long got the Cardinals into field goal range as the special teams unit jogged onto the field in an attempt to break the scoreless tie. But that was for not as kicker Logan Laratta hooked it wide.

Utica’s offense was forced to punt once again, but this time muffed by Fisher’s return man Ryan Romagnoli. Graduate student Nick Billand jumped on the loose ball to set the Pioneers up just outside the Cardinal’s 20.

After a few stops, Florio sprinted onto the field for the first time since his fumble. In a show of resilience, Florio rolled out to his right, and floated one up for tight end Tyler Kolenda, for the first touchdown of the game as well as Kolenda’s first touchdown of the season, 7-0 in favor of Utica halfway through the fourth quarter. 

Utica forced another punt, and once again the offense looked to Brantley to make a play. The veteran running back with a 37-yard run put Utica in the red zone. Then Florio with another tough touchdown, barrelling through the Cardinal’s defense up the lead to 14-0.

“Each of our quarterbacks ended up having a turnover that they want back… particularly Sam… but then he comes back and throws a touchdown and runs for one,” head coach Blaise Faggiano said of his quarterback’s toughness. “It’s just a good example of the resiliency of our guys, and it’s been our mantra of just finding a way to win.”

A strip sack sealed the game for the Pioneers on the following drive as Defensive Lineman John Stroughn got after Chase. For the second time this season, Utica was able to hold the opposing team scoreless. The win also marked its fifth consecutive victory over Fisher. 

The defense ended up recording six sacks against a team that had only allowed seven all year. Seniors Dough Simmons and James Lanier with two sacks apiece led the Pioneers on the defensive side. Brantley finished with 129 yards on the ground, the most he’s recorded in a single game.

Utica now looks to Hobart College on Saturday, Nov. 18 in the ECAC Clayton Chapman Bowl. The time has not yet been determined. 

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About the Contributor
Kayleigh Sturtevant, Multimedia Editor
Class Year: Senior Major: Sports Management Previous Position: Multimedia Editor (Fall 2023)

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