SUNY Cortland falls to Morrisville in Empire 8 matchup

The following is a republished press release…to submit a community announcement, email Peter Blanchard at [email protected].

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MORRISVILLE, N.Y. — Morrisville State grabbed a 28-0 halftime lead and held off a second-half Cortland rally as the Mustangs defeated the nationally 20th-ranked Red Dragons, 42-28, in an Empire 8 matchup.

Despite the loss, Cortland (7-2, 5-2 Empire 8) maintains a half game lead in the Empire 8 standings over St. John Fisher and Alfred (each 4-2). Three other teams have three league losses - Morrisville at 4-3 (5-3 overall), and Buffalo State and Utica each at 3-3. Cortland has a bye next week, and the Red Dragons can claim the league's NCAA automatic berth with a win at Ithaca on Nov. 14 in the annual Cortaca Jug game.

Morrisville quarterback Cory Benedetto completed 21-of-37 passes for 218 yards and two touchdowns. Marcus Jackson-Conner caught seven passes, one for a score, and Cristian Pena ran for 85 yards and two touchdowns.

Cortland outgained Morrisville in total offense, 464-428, but committed four turnovers, one of which resulted in a Mustangs' touchdown. Dylan Peebles (Port Leyden/South Lewis) ran 25 times for 140 yards and two touchdowns. Steven Ferreira (West Sayville/Sayville) completed 18-of-33 passes for 327 yards and two touchdowns, with Jon Mannix (East Northport/John H. Glenn) grabbing seven passes for 126 yards and a score. Josh Riley (Poughkeepsie/Spackenkill) also caught a TD pass.

Ferreira passed for at least 300 yards for the fourth time this season. He is the first Cortland quarterback in school history to hit that mark four times in a season; Ray Miles had three 300-yard passing games in 2008.

Caleb Wright finished with 10 tackles and Wallace Stephen made nine tackles, including two sacks, forced a fumble and broke up a pass for Morrisville. Carson Lassiter (Madison, NJ) led Cortland with 12 tackles, seven solo, and an interception and Matt Ambrose (Wyckoff, NJ/Ramapo) made nine tackles. Cortland punter Matt Green (Lexington, KY/Lafayette) averaged 48 yards per punt on three kicks, with a long of 64 yards, and pinned the Mustangs inside their 20-yard line twice.

Cortland drove to the Morrisville 11-yard line midway through the first half before Stephen sacked Ferreira and forced a fumble that Travis Caldwell returned 83 yards for a TD and a 7-0 lead. Cortland missed a field goal on its next possession, and the Mustangs responded with a 75-yard TD drive, capped by an 8-yard pass from Benedetto to Jackson-Conner, to up the lead to 14-0.

The lead grew to 21-0 early in the second quarter on a 33-yard TD pass from running back Anthony Mella to Mike Dodig, and Pena's 1-yard TD run with 1:08 left in the second sent the Mustangs into the locker room up by 28.

Cortland started to mount a comeback on its first possession of the third quarter with a 74-yard drive that culminated in an 18-yard TD pass from Ferreira to Riley. Morrisville, however, responded with a 10-play, 75-yard TD drive, and Pena's 4-yard scoring run gave the Mustangs a 35-7 lead.

Lassiter's 27-yard kickoff return to the Morrisville 39-yard line set up a three-play scoring drive as Peebles ran for seven yards, Ferreira hit Jake Smith (Albany/Guilderland) for 37 yards, and Peebles found paydirt from five yards out to cut Morrisville's lead to 35-14. The Red Dragons then forced a 3-and-out, and two plays later Peebles ran 48 yards for a TD and Cortland was within 35-21 with 5:07 left in the third.

Cortland's defense held on Morrisville's next two possession, but the Red Dragons fumbled the ball away on a punt return early in the fourth quarter. The teams then traded possessions before Morrisville drove 50 yards, capped by a 5-yard pass from Benedetto to Jon Andrews, to take a 42-21 lead with 6:52 remaining.

The Red Dragons made things interesting with one final push. Cortland drove 56 yards in six plays, the final 36 on a Mannix TD catch to cut the lead to 42-28 with 5:39 left. The Red Dragons then recovered an onsides kickoff and drove to the Morrisville 12-yard line before eventually turning the ball over on downs with 4:30 left. The Mustangs were able to gain two first downs to run out most of the clock before punting with 20 seconds left.

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