Nationally-ranked St. John Fisher College advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division IIII Football Championship with a convincing 27-6 win at previously-unbeaten Hobart College on Saturday.
With the win, improves to 10-2 overall, marking the fifth time in the last 10 years the Cardinals have reached double-digits in the win column. It is the fourth time Fisher has advanced to Elite 8 (2006, 2007 and 2011) in NCAA action. The victory also marks the second consecutive week Fisher has knocked off a top-10 team. Fisher, ranked 25th in the final regular-season D3football.com poll, beat No. 8 Hobart this week after rallying last week from a 13-0 deficit to win 25-16 at No. 9 John Carroll University.
Fisher will now take on No. 3 University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Texas next Saturday at 1 p.m.
Fisher took the lead for good on its opening possession and lost its shutout-bid with less than a minute to go in the game.
Hobart had the game's opening possession, but the Statesmen wouldn't retain the ball for long. After converting on a fourth-and-one, Bryant Moore forced the ball loose and Sean Preish recovered the ball to set Fisher up near midfield. The Cardinals would get 15 free yards after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, as Tyler Fenti and the rest of Fisher's offense went to work from the Hobart 35-yard line.
It wouldn't take long to capitalize on the early turnover. Fisher used its speed to move down the field with Cody Miller scoring on a three-yard run, capping the seven-play, 51-yard drive to give the visiting Cardinals a 7-0 lead with 9:56 left in the first quarter.
The touchdown marked the first time Fisher had scored in the opening quarter since week six against Salisbury University.
After swapping possessions, Ryan Sweet boomed a 72-yard punt that bounced all the way to the Hobart two-yard line. Deep in its own zone, Hobart ran into a wall as Fisher's defense forced the Statesmen into a three-and-out situation and the ensuing punt into a 20-mile-an-hour wind allowed for Fisher to take over at the Hobart 15-yard line.
After failing to move the sticks, the Cardinals sent out the kicking unit to try and take a 10-0 lead, but Fisher was unable to convert on the 33-yard kick as it sailed just wide.
The Statesmen had a chance to get on the board in the early goings of the second quarter, electing to go for it on fourth down and eight yards to go. After scrambling out of the pocket, Hobart quarterback, Patrick Conlan had room to run, but opted to pass it to an open receiver who dropped the ball as Fisher took over on downs from its own 18.
The Cardinals responded with an eight-play, 82-yard march that put the visitors in front 14-0. Fenti's 37-yard completion to wide receiver Kevin Francis was the big play of the drive. Two plays later, Fenti found Nathan Nigolian for a 17-yard touchdown with 7:31 left in second quarter.
Fisher would open up the second half of play in a big way. Bandon Fuentes came through with a career-long 51-yard return to give Fisher possession at the Hobart 44-yard line.
The Cardinals extended their lead to 17-0 with 11:34 left in the third quarter on a 27-yard field goal from Brendan Carey.
On Hobart's ensuing possession, safety Mike Guinta picked off Conlan's pass and returned it to 22 yards to the Hobart 32-yard line. The interception was Guinta's sixth pick in his last seven games and seventh of the year, tying the Fisher single-season record.
On the very next play, Fenti connected with a diving Francis in the left-corner of the endzone to make it 24-0 with just under nine minutes left in the third quarter.
Fisher forced its third turnover of the day on an interception from Ryan Ballard with just over 10 minutes left in the game. Fisher drove 46 yards and used up nearly seven minutes on the clock before Carey kicked a 34-yard field goal to put the Cardinals up 27-0.
For Fisher, Fenti was 18-for-31 for 244 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also gained 40 yards on eight carries. Cody Miller led Fisher with 60 yards rushing on 23 carries.
Francis was Fenti's favorite target on the day, snagging eight passes for 133 yards, bringing his season total to 980 yards. Nigolian caught six passes for 77 yards, while Dan Rudy made four receptions for 34 yards.
Ryan Seymour was credited with a team-high nine tackles. Sean Preish made seven stops, while Cody Foster and Mason Judd each recorded on sack.
"This was a total team effort," said head coach Paul Vosburgh after the game. "Our defense forced some turnovers, and nearly had a shutout, we scored on our first possession to take the lead for good and I thought our special teams made really big plays as well."