Spriingfield, Mass. -- October 31, 2009 -- Joe Myhren ran for 170 yards and one touchdown and Alex Mendez ran for three more touchdowns to lead the Springfield College football team to a 47-26 victory over Ithaca College in an Empire 8 Conference game at Amos Alonzo Stagg Field under overcast skies this afternoon. Springfield thus wins its fifth straight, and ups its overall record to 7-1, and 3-1 in conference play. Ithaca, meanwhile, falls to 5-3 overall, and 2-2 in the Empire 8.
It was Springfield's first victory over Ithaca since 2003. The Bombers had taken seven of the last eight verdicts between these two schools entering this game.
In many respects, this was an even game. In time of possession, SC had the ball for 30:31, while Ithaca maintained possession for 29:29. SC outgained Ithaca, 386 yards to 326. Average gain per play was 5.4 yards for the Pride, and 4.7 yards for the Bombers.
One key stat in SC's favor was in kickoff returns. SC returned six kickoffs for 187 yards, while Ithaca had 93 yards on eight kickoff returns. It seemed like SC was able to gain advantages throughout the afternoon due to its return game.
That was very evident at the very start. Ithaca won the toss and elected to defer. Springfield chose to receive, and that gave Ithaca a wind advantage in the first quarter. But senior DB and return specialist Jarred Burrell (Warwick, R.I.) took the opening kickoff back 52 yards, giving SC good field position at the Ithaca 40. Myhren, a junior running back from New Hampton, N.Y., then ran the ball twice -- for 15 yards, and then 25 yards for a touchdown -- and SC led 6-0 just 30 seconds into the game. The extra point was blocked.
But that was just the beginning of a 40-point first quarter that saw both teams scoring 20 apiece. Ithaca took a 7-6 lead with 10:50 left after junior TE Matt Crandall (Cattaraugus, N.Y.) scored on a 16-yard pass play from senior QB Brian Grastorf (Rexford, N.Y.). The extra point by sophomore K Andrew Rogowski (East Amherst, N.Y.) gave Ithaca the lead.
Ithaca then scored another TD with 7:28 left on a one-yard run by freshman RB Clay Ardoin (Dolgeville, N.Y.). That extra point was also blocked, and Ithaca led 13-6. But the Pride answered with a 7-play, 58-yard march that was culminated by the first of three Alex Mendez touchdowns. A sophomore fullback from Cranston, R.I,, Mendez dove in from two yards out with 5:16 left, and the kick by sophomore K Giuliano Pizzo (Methuen, Mass.) tied it at 13-all.
But once again, it did not take long for the Bombers to regain the lead. In fact, it took just four plays and 75 yards. With 3:29 left in the first quarter, Ithaca ran a trick play to perfection. It appeared to be an end around, but suddenly junior WR Thomas Vossler (Loon Lake, N.Y.) pulled up and found fellow junior WR Dan Ruffrage (Whitesboro, N.Y.) alone in the end zone for a 31-yard scoring strike. And Ithaca led, 20-13.
But again it was Burrell who was magnificent by returning the ensuing kickoff 74 yards to the Ithaca 12. Four plays later, Mendez popped it in from one yard out, and it was tied at 20-all with 2:01 left in the first quarter -- with visions of an 80-80 score in regulation in everyone's heads.
Things settled down to a degree from there. The Springfield defense allowed only six points to Ithaca in the final three quarters. An Ithaca field goal (32-yarder by Rogowski), making it 23-20 with 4:39 left, were the only points scored in the second quarter. And a 20-yarder by Rogowski with 8:25 left in the third quarter gave the Bombers a 26-20 advantage.
But that was all the Bombers would muster, as Springfield tallied the last 27 points unanswered.
It began when junior HB Antoine King (Boston, Mass). finished a 10-play, 77-yard drive with 5:05 left in the third with a one-yard dive. Pizzo's kick went wide right, and it was 26-all at that point.
Springfield finally took the lead for good when SC drove 46 yards on five plays with 1:12 left in the third. Springfield sophomore QB Josh Carter (Marlborough, Mass.) came alive by hitting King on a 12-yard pass play for a TD -- and SC led, 33-26.
The Pride added two more TDs in the fourth quarter. With 11:17 left, Mendez culminated an 8-play, 28-yard drive following a Burrell interception with a one-yard plunge. SC led, 40-26. And finally, senior FB Baldwin Cunningham (Manchester, Conn.) scored on a 9-yard run with 4:13 to go, making 47-26. That TD culminated a 10-play, 73-yard march.
For SC, Myhren ran for 170 yards and one TD on 19 carries. Carter ran for 80 yards on just 11 carries, a low total for him. Mendez ran for 49 yards and three TDs on 15 carries. Carter was 3-for-8 passing for 37 yards and 1 TD.
Fo Ithaca, junior RB Dan Ruggiero (Pen Argyl, Pa.) led with 65 yards rushing on 18 carries. Grastorf was 18-for-38 for 222 yards with one interception and one TD. He had been 9-for-10 in the first quarter. Ruffrage caught six passes for 96 yards. Vossler caught four passes for 76 yards and one TD.
On defense, SC was led by junior DB Tim Schumacher (Southington, Conn.) with nine tackles. Senior OLB Ryan Gunningsmith (Trumansburg, N.Y.) and senior ILB Ken Goodwin (Foxboro, Mass.), the reigning ECAC Division III Northwest and Empire 8 Defensive Player of the Week, each had eight tackles
For Ithaca, the game's leading tackler was junior SS David Ahonen (Farmington, N.Y.) with 11. Junior CB Andy Lonsky (Milford, Pa.) and freshman DE Owen Kugler (Highland Park, Ill.) each had nine tackles.
Springfield continues to play the iron of the league next week at home as it takes on St. John Fisher at 1:30 pm on Amos Alonzo Stagg Field on Homecoming Day.