That letdown Canisius College football coach Chuck Williams feared after last week's tough loss to Georgetown didn't materialize Saturday.
Instead, the Golden Griffins roared back from a 10-point third quarter deficit and defeated Alfred University, 23-20, before a Homecoming crowd of 1,072 at the Demske Sports Complex. Junior tailback Nick Adinolfi led the way with 42 carries for 169 yards and two touchdowns.
"I was so worried about an emotional letdown because we worked so hard and didn't get it," said Williams, referring to the 24-10 loss to Georgetown.
In the first half, the Griffs got a 30-yard field goal from Dustin Bakowski and a 1-yard run by Adinolfi. Then they parlayed a series of clutch plays in the second half with Adinolfi's tough running keying their comeback. Adinolfi's second TD, a tackle-breaking 28-yard run, pulled Canisius within 20-16 with 8:20 left in the third quarter.
The next time the Griffs had the ball, they struck for the lead with two surprise plays.
The first was a 27-yard run by Aaron Wysko from punt formation on fourth and 3 from the Alfred 45.
Three plays later, the Griffs were facing third and 1 at the Alfred 19. Since Adinolfi had already carried 33 times, the Saxons expected him to get the ball again.
Canisius, however, faked an off-tackle run by Adinolfi on the isolation play and quarterback Bryan Roland threw a perfect strike to Jason Przybysz, who was open in the end zone for the winning touchdown with 31 seconds left in the third quarter.
"We set it up all game," said Przybysz, who pretended to block as he had done several times for a running play, then ran a zig-zag route to the corner of the end zone.
"We were kind of waiting for the right time. Coach called the play, and they fell for it, and there was no one back there," said Przybysz, a junior from Cheektowaga who had four receptions for 62 yards, all for first-down or touchdown yardage.
"I knew it was going to go for a home run," Adinolfi said.
After the defense stopped Alfred on one series and Saxon kicker Ryan Rambacher missed a 42-yard field goal on another, the Griffins ran out the last 2:58 to preserve the victory. Przybysz had a key third-down reception from backup quarterback Jon Ross for 16 yards with 2:46 left that allowed Canisius to keep possession on the last series.
Ross had taken over for Roland, who reinjured his right knee on the previous series.
The game between the Division I-AA Griffins and the Division III Saxons (2-4) proved an entertaining one for a regional television audience. The teams produced 790 yards in total offense and only one turnover.
Canisius had two 86-yard scoring drives, with Adinolfi contributing 50 rushing yards to one and 43 yards, rushing and receiving, to the other.
The 6-foot, 202-pound junior back from West Seneca seems to thrive on his workhorse role, but he claims it wasn't always so.
"In the beginning of the season I would tire," Adinolfi said. "Coach Maier (running backs coach Mark Maier) pushes me all week during the conditioning in practice. He makes us run extra hard and for every fumble or mistake we have we're doing laps after practice on his time. We're mad when it happens, but it pays off because I wasn't winded today."
Canisius had to weather outstanding performances by Alfred quarterback Ryan Woodruff, a sophomore from Smethport, Pa., and wide receiver Tom Callen, a senior from Salamanca.
The 6-foot-5 Woodruff completed 15 of 26 for 275 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Callen caught eight passes for 189 yards, including an 18-yard touchdown reception on the Saxons' first series. Woodruff also hit Jason Fenner for a 5-yard scoring pass. Later, though, Fenner dropped what would probably have been a 42-yard touchdown pass just before the Griffins began their comeback.
Jeff Colasanti, a junior Syracuse who transferred to Alfred from Buffalo State, ran 10 yards for the other Alfred touchdown. Colasanti was limited to 73 yards in 16 carries after he ran for a career-high 214 in a 42-6 victory over Thiel last week. Alfred Fullback Frank Carcone carried 21 times for 101 yards.