Cortland hosts Ithaca in the annual "Cortaca Jug" rivalry game on Saturday at nooon to conclude the regular season. The Red Dragons, ranked 19th nationally by D3football.com and 18th by the American Football Coaches Association, have already secured an automatic berth into the NCAA Div. III playoffs by winning the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) title with a 7-0 record. Ithaca finished 4-3 in Empire 8 play after winning last week versus Hartwick and the previous week against nationally ranked Salisbury.
THE SERIES: This is the 54th time that Cortland and Ithaca are playing for the Cortaca Jug. The schools actually started playing in 1930 and have met every year since 1948. Ithaca leads the overall series 39-28-3. In 1959, however, Cortland captain Tom Decker and Ithaca captain Dick Carmean originated the Cortaca Jug as the prize for the winner of the game between the schools located about 20 miles apart on Route 13. Each year, the game's result is printed on the Jug. The first Jug ran out of room for scores in the mid-1980s, necessitating a second Jug that sports the most recent results.
Ithaca leads the Jug series 34-19, which does not include the Bombers' 1988 NCAA playoff win over the Red Dragons. Cortland, however, is 9-7 versus the Bombers since 1996, including wins each of the last two seasons. Cortland is looking to win three straight games in the series for the first time since a three-game streak from 1966-68.
Cortland defeated the Bombers, 27-3, last year in front of an estimated 9.700 fans at Ithaca's Butterfield Stadium. The 24-point margin of victory was Cortland's largest in the series since a 41-13 home win in 1996 and the biggest winning margin in a road game at Ithaca since a 28-0 shutout in 1955. Dan Pitcher completed 23-of-36 passes for 280 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 94 yards on 11 carries. Mike Humphrey, John Babin and Tyreek Burwell caught TD passes and Bronson Greene rushed for a score. Kordel McInnis caught seven passes for 73 yards.
Cortland outgained Ithaca in total offense, 417-226. The Red Dragon defense recorded eight sacks and limited the Bombers to 67 net rushing yards. Steve Gruber made six tackles, three for losses. Cody Allen finished with five tackles and intercepted a pass that halted Ithaca's opening drive inside the Cortland 20-yard line. Ithaca's Jason Hendel completed 16-of-24 passes for 159 yards and Dan Ruffrage caught eight passes. A 38-yard run by Tom Scanlon on a fake punt early in the second quarter set up Andrew Rogowski's 39-yard field goal for Ithaca's lone score.
In 2010 at home, Cortland rallied from a 17-3 third-quarter deficit to win, 20-17. Ithaca won the three previous Cortaca Jug games from 2007-09, with the 2008 win in Cortland denying the Red Dragons a perfect 10-0 regular-season record. Cortland won overtime games at home in 2006 and at Ithaca in 2005. Of the last 15 games in the series (1997-2011), 11 have been decided by eight points or less.
CORTLAND CAPSULE: Cortland had an unexpected open date last week as its game at William Paterson in Wayne, N.J., was canceled due to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. The previous week, Cortland clinched the NJAC title and an NCAA tournament berth with a 31-17 win at Kean. The Red Dragons scored the game's final 28 points, including interception returns for touchdowns by senior cornerback Pete Furey and senior defensive end Vaughn Labor in the fourth quarter. Cortland will be making its third NCAA appearance in five years (2008, 2010, 2012) and its eighth overall.
Sophomore Bronson Greene rushed for 108 yards on 10 carries, including a 52-yard touchdown, and junior Justin Autera ran for 56 yards on seven attempts. Freshman Andre Green and senior Chris Bright led the defense with 12 tackles each and Furey made 11 stops. Furey's 75-yard interception return gave Cortland the lead. It was the third-longest interception return in school history. Junior Mike DeBole made three field goals, all in the first half as Cortland trailed 17-9 at intermission.
Senior quarterback Chris Rose is 165-of-274 passing (60.2 percent) for 1,863 yards and 18 touchdowns in eight games. He's been intercepted 15 times, with 12 of those coming in three games (five at Buffalo St., four at Kean, three vs. Brockport). Senior Mike Humphrey leads the team with 46 catches for 568 yards. He's scored five touchdowns. Sophomore Kordel McInnis has made 38 catches for 470 yards and seven scores and sophomore Jack Delahunty has 34 receptions for 365 yards and a score. Senior Dorian Myles is the team's leading rusher at 88.9 yards per game and he's scored six times (four rushing, two receiving). Greene has eight rushing touchdowns.
Green is the team leader with 57 tackles in seven contests. Furey has 52 tackles and a team-best four interceptions and Bright has made 50 tackles. Junior Gabe Ostrow leads the Red Dragons with six sacks and 10 total tackles for losses. DeBole is 9-of-14 on field goal attempts and 33-of-34 on point-after kicks. He also averages 39.6 yards per punt.
Head Coach Dan MacNeill is in his 16th season with the Red Dragons. With his win at Kean two weeks ago, MacNeill passed Carl "Chugger" Davis as Cortland's career leader with 106 victories. Davis was 105-67-17 from 1932-62. MacNeill's official record of 106-55 (.658) ranks him first at Cortland in career victories and winning percentage. He was the NJAC Coach of the Year and a finalist for Liberty Mutual National Div. III Coach of the Year honors in 2008 after leading the Red Dragons to the league title and the NCAA quarterfinals.
MacNeill has guided Cortland to the NCAA playoffs in 1997, 2005, 2008 and 2010, and his teams have also played in six ECAC bowl games. His 2008 squad was honored with the Lambert Meadowlands Trophy and the ECAC Div. III Team of the Year awards. MacNeill is a 1979 Cortland alumnus and played linebacker and defensive tackle from 1975-78. An assistant coach at Division I-AA Villanova University from 1984-1996, MacNeill is Cortland's 11th head coach since the school's modern era of football began in 1924. MacNeill served as linebackers coach at Villanova and was the team's defensive coordinator from 1988-96.
A LOOK AT...ITHACA COLLEGE: After starting the season 4-0, Ithaca lost three straight games, two by seven points or less. The Bombers have since rebounded with two victories - a 21-14 triumph over nationally seventh-ranked Salisbury Oct. 27 and a 28-7 win versus Hartwick last Saturday, both at home.
In the win over Salisbury, Ithaca took a 14-0 lead on a Phil Neumann 3-yard TD pass to Jared Prugar in the first quarter and a Clay Ardoin 7-yard run in the third quarter. Salisbury eventually tied the game with 1:41 remaining, but Ithaca responded with a 7-play, 81-yard scoring drive that was capped by Neumann's winning 58-yard TD pass to Joseph Ingrao with 32 seconds left.
Last week, Ithaca won despite being outgained by Hartwick, 212-192. The Bombers scored on three TD drives of 39 yards or less. Neumann threw a 9-yard scoring pass to Ingrao, Ardoin scored on a 1-yard run and Prugar caught a 39-yard TD pass from Tom Dempsey. Ithaca's final score came on a Brian Garvey 4-yard interception return.
Ardoin averages 97.8 rushing yards per game and has scored seven times. Neumann is 146-of-248 passing (58.9 percent) for 1,556 yards and 15 touchdowns with just seven interceptions. Ingrao is the top receiver with 63 catches for 879 yards and seven touchdowns.
On the defensive side, safety Tom Scanlon leads the squad with 60 tackles and linebacker Chris Williams has made 52 stops. Garvey has intercepted five passes and has broken up 11 passes. Placekicker Garrett Nicholson is a perfect 27-of-27 on point-after kicks and has made 5-of-8 field goals. AJ Vallone averages 37.6 yards per punt and Sam Carney averages 13.4 yards per punt return.
Head Coach Mike Welch is in his 19th seasons at the helm for the Bombers. He entered the season with an overall record of 138-56. Welch, however, took a leave of absence in mid-October to have heart bypass surgery. Mark McDonough, Ithaca's defensive coordinator, has served as Ithaca's acting head coach for the past three games - a loss at St. John Fisher and home wins over Salisbury and Hartwick. McDonough is a 2002 Ithaca alumnus and former standout linebacker for the Bombers. He's still ranked in the top 10 in school history with 284 career tackles and was a third-team All-American in 2001 when Ithaca advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals.
* Cortland is averaging 40.1 points per game through eight games. The school record for scoring average in the regular season is 38.0 points per game in 1990. Last year's squad averaged 36.8 points per game in 10 regular-season games (34.7 points per game counting the ECAC Southeast Bowl).
* Cortland has set a school record this season with four interception returns for touchdowns (one each by Pete Furey, Vaughn Labor, Andrew Tolosi and Matt Ambrose). The previous school record (dating back to 1979 when full defensive stats were first kept) was three interceptions returned for touchdowns on three occasions (2003, 2004 and 2007). Cortland has 16 interceptions in eight games this season - the school record is 24 in 10 games in 1981.
* Cortland junior Nick Daley handles the Red Dragons' kickoffs, and through eight games he has recorded 21 touchbacks. The other eight NJAC schools combined have a total of 21 touchbacks, with the next-highest totals of five by Rowan and four by Kean and TCNJ. Nationally, only five schools in Div. III have more than 21 touchbacks this year (St. John's (Minn.) 31, Birmingham-Southern 25, Mt. Union 24, Texas Lutheran 23 and Wisconsin-Whitewater 22.)
* Senior tailback Dorian Myles is averaging 6.6 yards per carry on 107 rushes this season. While that average has dropped from 9.9 yards per carry after four games, it's still on pace to set a school record. The current school record for best yard-per-rush average (minimum 100 carries) in a season is 5.7 yards per carry by Scott Berent in 1990 (1,181 yards on 208 carries in 10 regular-season games).
* Senior quarterback Chris Rose has started every game this season after serving as a backup the past two years. Rose played at Hobart as a freshman in 2009. Rose's 18 touchdown passes this season are tied for the fifth-highest single-season total in school history. Dan Pitcher threw 31 TD passes last year, Ray Miles threw 23 TD passes in 2008 and 19 in 2007, and J.J. Tutwiler threw 21 TD passes in 2001.
* Cortland school-record streak of seven straight games with at least 400 yards of total offense ended when the Red Dragons gained 332 yards in their win at Kean two weeks ago. Cortland averages 446 yards per game (3,568 yards in eight games) - the school record is 448.1 yards per game in 1990 (4,481 yards in 10 games; regular season only).
* The Red Dragons have 19 sacks in eight games. Cortland has recorded at least 30 sacks each of the last 11 seasons, including 39 last year and 50 or more in both 2005 and 2006. Cortland's 50 sacks in 2006 were the best nationally in Division III. The Red Dragons set a school record with 52 sacks in 2005 (sacks have been officially tracked at Cortland since 1982).
* Cortland has allowed only six sacks on 280 total pass plays (274 passes plus six sacks) for a 2.14 percent sack rate. The Red Dragons set a school record last year with a 2.61 percent sack rate (nine sacks in 344 pass plays), and the second-best rate was 3.58 percent in 2002. Cortland has not allowed a sack in its last four games this season.
* Cortland has scored on 77 percent of its trips into the "red zone" (inside the opponent's 20-yard line) with 21 touchdowns and nine field goals in 39 trips. Red Dragon opponents have a 68 percent success rate in the red zone with 14 touchdowns and one field goal in 22 trips.
* Cortland is in its 13th season as a football-only member of the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC). The Red Dragons compete in the State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) in most of their other sports. Cortland was the first non-New Jersey school to join the NJAC for football, starting in the 2000 season, and was joined by Western Connecticut State, Buffalo State, Brockport and Morrisville. However, Buffalo State has since left the league for the Empire 8, Western Connecticut will leave after this fall to join the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) for football only, and Brockport will leave the NJAC after the 2013 season to join the Empire 8. Cortland has finished at least tied for first in the NJAC six of the last eight years (2005-08, 2010, 2012) and has earned the league's NCAA automatic bid three times (2008, 2010, 2012).
* Cortland Athletics will be donating all proceeds from its 50/50 raffle at the Cortaca Jug game to the Red Cross to help assist with relief efforts after Hurricane Sandy hit last week in the downstate New York and New Jersey area. Fans are also encouraged to donate to the Red Cross either online at www.redcross.org, by phone at 1-800-RED-CROSS (733-2767), or by making a $10 donation by texting REDCROSS to 90999.
* Cortland and Ithaca rank in the top 40 nationally in Division III in the following team and individual categories: