Buffalo State's slim hopes of getting a piece of the Empire 8 Conference football championship took a big hit Saturday with a 26-13 loss to Utica at Coyer Field.
The visiting Pioneers took care of all the scoring in the second half after 13-all tie at the break. They scored on a 9-yard pass from Teddy Van Galen to Jerred Beniquez in the third quarter and added a 39-yard scoring run by Ryan Burnett with 1:30 left. It was the second Empire-8 win in a row for Utica (6-2, 4-2), which upset nationally ranked St. John Fisher, 23-6, last week. The loss stopped a Buffalo State win streak at two.
Kyle Hoppy (Orchard Park) passed 4 yards to senior tight end Nick Jones (West Seneca West) for the lone Buffalo State touchdown with 20 seconds left in the first half. It capped a 77-yard drive. Hoppy, however, suffered through a rough day passing in the 15-20 mph wind. He completed only 5 of 22 passes for 58 yards and was intercepted twice and sacked three times. Van Galen, on the other hand, completed 15 of 22 for 200 yards and two scores and was intercepted once and sacked one.
The first of two field goals by senior Marc Montana, from 37 yards, gave Buffalo State the first lead midway through the opening quarter. On the second play following the kickoff, Van Galen hit Beniquez on a 63-yard pass for a 6-3 lead. It came just 42 seconds after the Montana field goal.
The next time Utica gained possession, it drove 66 yards to take the lead with 46 seconds left in the first quarter on a 1-yard run by Lindell Reed.
The Bengals tied it in the second quarter on a 39-yard Montana field goal, his 10th in 13th attempts this season. That was the end of the Buffalo State scoring, however. The Bengals reached Utica territory three times in the second half - the 23 was the deepest penetration - but lost the ball on an interception and on downs. An interception ended the Bengals' final possession with 28 seconds left.
Senior Tre Jones carried 17 times for 147 yards and Hoppy had 41 in 15 attempts as Buffalo State had a 195-173 advantage in rushing yards. Junior linebacker Bart Mazzara (Starpoint) had 18 total tackles, five solos, and junior cornerback Tiquan Simpkins had 11 stops including six solos to lead the Buffalo State defense.
It was the third conference loss for Buffalo State (4-3, 2-3 Empire 8) and left the Bengals three games behind conference leader Alfred. The Bengals will play their final home game of the season at 11 a.m. on Saturday against Empire-8 opponent Hartwick, which lost at home to Alfred, 61-12. The kickoff was moved from noon to allow for a 3 p.m. start time for the Bengals men's soccer team in a playoff game.