Football Shuts Down No. 19 Cortland, 16-7

Montclair, NJ (10/3/09) –  Senior cornerback Dominique Dixon (Elizabeth, NJ / Morris Hills) returned an interception 16 yards for a touchdown with less than a minute remaining to cap another solid defensive effort for Montclair State as the Red Hawks knocked off 19th-ranked Cortland, 16-7 in New Jersey Athletic Conference action at Sprague Field on Saturday afternoon.

Senior kicker Marco Capozzoli (Bloomfield, NJ / St. Joseph’s (Montvale)) connected for three field goals as the Red Hawks snapped a five-game losing streak to the Red Dragons. Montclair, 4-1 overall and 4-0 in the NJAC, won for the first time in the series since 2003 and at home versus Cortland since 2000 (15-3 victory). MSU trails in the series 15-10-1.

Senior defensive end Bryan Wiley (Cape Vincent, NY / Thousand Islands) finished with a game-high 12 tackles, including five for losses and two sacks for Cortland, which fell to 3-2 both overall and in the NJAC.

Capozzoli connected on field goals of 36, 24 and 27 yards to give Montclair State a 9-0 lead that stood until the final seven minutes of the game as the Red Hawks held Cortland to just five first downs and 83 yards until the Red Dragons final woke up with a monster 21-play, 97 yard drive to brought them within two points.

Pinned at their own 7 with 7:51 left, Cortland would get out of the shadow of its own end zone as Hudson Woodward (Beacon, NY / Beacon) completed a 16-yard pass to Anthony Giuliano (Thornwood, NY / Westlake) on 3rd-and-10. Two more completions to Woodward moved the ball inside MSU territory at the 57. A sack and a pair of incomplete passes left the Red Dragons with a 4th-and-14 at the MSU 40. Woodward threw incomplete to Alexander Grimm (Farmingville, NY / Sachem East), but MSU was flagged for a pass interference penalty keeping the drive going. A Giuliano reception and facemask penalty got the ball to the MSU 3 before Dom Sair (Huntington, NY / Huntington) barreled in from a yard out as Cortland cut the lead to 9-7 with 3:09 to play.

The Red Dragons tried the onside kick, however the ball failed to travel the necessary 10 yards and Montclair took over at the Cortland 34 with 2:40 to play. The Red Hawks managed to run some time off but had to punt the ball back to Cortland with 1:30 to play. Punter Steve Layden (Westampton, NJ / Rancocas Valley) placed punt to the Cortland 7.

A pair of incomplete passes and a short gain left Cortland with a 4th-and-7 at its own 10. Freshman Rob Von Bargen (Massapequa, NY / Massapequa), the third Red Dragon quarterback used in the game, threw to the sideline, however Dixon was there to intercept the pass and raced the 16 yards for the score.
While Montclair’s defense was outstanding, the Red Dragon defense was also solid as it held the Red Hawks out of the end zone in the game.

After taking the opening kickoff, a short punt by Cortland and good return by Scott Kubrak (Caldwell, NJ / Caldwell) of 15 yards gave MSU the ball at the Cortland 25. But Montclair managed just six yards before Capozzoli came on and connected from 36 yards out for a 3-0 MSU lead 2:56 into the contest.

Layden, who put four punts inside the 20 during the game, pinned Cortland at its own 1 midway through the second quarter. On the first play, safety Jesse Shenker (Freehold, NJ / Freehold Township) forced a fumble recovered by Dixon at the Cortland 13. Again the Cortland defense came up with stops and Capozzoli came on to hit from 24 yards out as MSU led 6-0 with 7:55 remaining.

On its next possession, Montclair would put together its longest drive of the day – 62 yards in 12 plays that would culminated in Capozzoli’s third field goal of the game. Starting from its own 28, Tom Fischer (Livingston, NJ / Livingston) hit Kubrak for 15 yards to the Cortland 49 and Dan Keegan (Fairfield, NJ / West Essex) for 12 yards as MSU moved the ball to the Cortland 39. A Fischer pass to Ron Litz (South River, NJ / South River) plus a 15-yard penalty got the ball to the Cortland 14. Montclair State would eventually face a 3rd-and-21 from the Cortland 25 and threw an incompletion. However a pass interference penalty kept the drive as the ball was spotted at the 12. But Montclair couldn’t capitalize and Capozzoli hit from 27 yards out as MSU led 9-0 at the half.
Montclair State held Cortland to just one first down and 65 total yards.

Defensive end Chris Merkle (Nutley, NJ / Nutley) finished with seven tackles (five unassisted) along with a sack, three tackles for loss of 16 yards) and a forced fumble. Mario McLean (Montville, NJ / Montville) added six tackles and a sack while Brian Tweer (Butler, NJ / Butler) collected five tackles and a sack. MSU allowed just 35 yards rushing while Jeff Bliss (New Milford, NJ/ New Milford) ran for 65 on 23 carries. Fishcer was 14-of-27 for 132 yards, including six to Keegan, who finished with 56 yards.

For Cortland Sair ran for 32 yards on eight carries to lead the Red Dragon ground game. Woodward was 16-of-36 for 145 yards with Grimm pulling in six of those for 28 yards. Giuliano had five receptions for 54 yards. Senior quarterback Alex Smith (Niagara Falls, NY / Niagara-Wheatfield) also played in the game – his first action since the opening week of the 2007 season. Smith, played in one series in the second half and lost 15 yards on three rushes, including a 2-yard loss on an errant pitch and a 12-yard sack. Defensively, Cody Allen (Medina, NY/ Medina) added 11 tackles.

Both teams are back in action next week with NJAC contests. Montclair State makes the long trek to Buffalo, NY to face the Bengals of Buffalo State at Noon. Cortland is back home at the SUNY-Cortland Stadium Complex to face Western Connecticut in a 1:00 pm kickoff.