Story and photo courtesy of Ithaca Athletics
ITHACA, N.Y. - The Ithaca College football team (2-0) remained unbeaten, rallying to beat winless Union (0-3) 27-24 in overtime Saturday at Butterfield Stadium. Junior quarterback Phil Neumann (Burnt Hills/Burnt Hills-Ballston Spa) threw two touchdown passes in the final three minutes and added a third for the game-winning score in overtime.
The Bombers trailed 21-7 with 2:49 left in regulation before Neumann threw a pair of touchdown passes 70 seconds apart as Ithaca forced overtime. In the extra session he connected on a four-yard pass to senior wide receiver Joseph Ingrao (Nesconset/St. Anthony's) to win the game after the Bomber defense held the Dutchmen to a field goal on their possession.
Union gained two first downs on its overtime possession (the Bombers won the toss and elected to play defense) to advance to the Ithaca five-yard line before Bomber defense took over. After senior linebacker Jake Santora (Westport, Conn./Staples) kept Union's quarterback out of the end zone on a four-yard gain on first down, the Dutchmen fumbled the snap on second down and junior linebacker Brian Hardenberg (Verona, N.J./Verona) brought the quarterback down for a two-yard loss. Hardenberg burst through the line on third down for a 10-yard sack – the first of his career – to force Union to settle for a field goal.
Hardenberg, who made his first career start, set a Bomber single-game record with six tackles for loss among his 12 total stops.
Ingrao's game-winning touchdown came two plays after the Dutchmen were called for pass interference on a third-down play from the 20-yard line. Senior Clay Ardoin (Dolgeville/Dolgeville) took the ball from the 10-yard line to the four, setting up Neumann's career-best third touchdown pass. Ingrao caught the ball in the back corner of the end zone to set off a celebration by the Bombers and keep Union winless on the season and all-time at Butterfield Stadium (both 0-3).
Ithaca's late rally started with 6:23 left in regulation. After the Dutchmen drove 99 yards for a touchdown and extra point that gave them a 14-point lead, Neumann drove the Bombers 71 yards in 3:34. He completed seven of eight passes on the nine-play drive, including a four-yard touchdown throw to senior fullback Michael Moon (Norwich/Norwich). The touchdown was the first of Moon's career.
The Bomber defense forced a three-and-out from Union with senior free safety Josh Liemer (Chappaqua/Horace Greeley) recording tackles on first and second down and sophomore end Joe Ricotta (Perry/Letchworth) stopping the Dutchmen a yard short of the marker on third and three. Union's punt attempt failed disastrously as the snap went over the punter's head and 20 yards behind him; he fell on the ball at his own four-yard line with 1:45 to go. On Ithaca's first play, Neumann found junior tight end Steve DelMoro (Peekskill/Hackley) in the end zone for a touchdown and sophomore Garrett Nicholson (State College, Pa./State College Area) kicked his third extra point of the day to tie the score.
Ithaca's comeback matched the program's biggest ever; in the seven previous games the Bombers had trailed by 14 points and come back to win, they'd never faced a 14-point deficit at any point in the fourth quarter.
The Bomber defense contributed the team's first points; senior strong safety Tom Scanlon (Bethany, Conn./Amity Regional) scooped up a fumble forced by senior linebacker Will Carter (Thornwood/Westlake) and returned it 56 yards for a touchdown. The play was the longest fumble recovery ever by a Bomber.
Carter led Ithaca with a career-best 13 tackles. Liemer and senior linebacker Zach Matuszak (Binghamton/Johnson City) added nine tackles apiece; Matuszak made five tackles for loss and Liemer was in on two. Santora and junior defensive tackle Dan Sheldon (Ridgefield, Conn./Ridgefield) both had a pair of stops behind the line of scrimmage.
Neumann completed 20 of 35 passes for 190 yards. Ingrao caught seven passes (one short of his career high) for the second game in a row. DelMoro matched his career best with five receptions and senior wideout JJ Crandall (Herkimer/Herkimer Central) had four catches, tying his personal best. Ardoin ran for 73 yards.
The Bombers are now 6-4 all-time in overtime and snapped a four-game losing streak in overtime games. Ithaca's first overtime game ever was also against Union; the Bombers topped the host Dutchmen 24-17 in the opening round of the 1986 NCAA playoffs.
Ithaca opens Empire 8 play next week with a Saturday game at Frostburg State.