ITHACA -- The St. Lawrence University football team dropped its 2010 season opener on Saturday to the nationally-ranked No. 16 Bombers from Ithaca College.
The Saints, who kept within striking distance throughout much of the game, were done in by four turnovers, one of which, a 66-yard interception return for a touchdown by Mike Conti, was the turning point of the game.
The game was the head coaching debut for Mark Raymond at St. Lawrence (0-1, 0-0), who spent seven seasons as the defensive coordinator at Ithaca.
"We did some positive things throughout the first half and we were able to hang around," said Coach Raymond. "We simply can't turn the football over four times, especially against a team like Ithaca who will make you pay. We will work to have a good week of practice and be ready for Norwich next weekend."
The St. Lawrence defense did well to shut down the Bombers throughout the first quarter, giving up only three points on a 22-yard field goal by Andrew Rogowski at 4:41 of the opening quarter that capped a 7-play, 35-yard drive. The Scarlet and Brown would respond later in the quarter, as junior Matthew Dodge evened the score at 3-3 with a career-long 47 yard field goal at 13:19.
The second quarter was a defensive battle, as Ithaca forced a fumble from junior quarterback Andy Spadoni and set up at the St. Lawrence 28-yard line. However, the Saints defense was able to hold the line and force a 47-yard field goal try after sophomore Robert McCourt forced a six yard loss. Rogowski's kick came up shy of the bar and the Saints remained tied with Ithaca late in the second quarter.
On the ensuing drive, St. Lawrence turned to the running game as junior Marcus Washington carried the ball five consecutive plays and moved the ball into Ithaca territory. An 11-yard gain by classmate Ramon Mignott would put visitors at the Ithaca 38-yard line. However, on 3rd-and-7, Spadoni was intercepted by Conti, who took the ball all the way to the end zone with only 32 seconds left in the first half. The play took the momentum away from the underdogs, as they went to halftime trailing 10-3.
After St. Lawrence came away empty on its first drive of the second half, Ithaca put together a 12-play, 56-yard drive that resulted in a short field goal to put the Bombers ahead 13-3. The home seemed poised to score its first offensive touchdown of the day as they set up first-and-goal at the 5-yard line, but junior Doug Geraghty and the Saints' defensive line made Ithaca settle for a 21-yard field goal with 5:28 left in the third quarter.
The Saints' offense continued to struggle moving the football against the Ithaca defense and were forced to punt again after falling behind by 10. This time, the Bombers used a 31-yard completion from quarterback Rob Zappia to Joseph Ingrao to get back into the red zone. Five plays later, Jared Prugar barreled across the goal line for Ithaca's first offensive touchdown and, after Rogowki's extra point, a 20-3 advantage.
With the momentum on its side, Ithaca went on to score two more touchdowns to put the game out of reach and seal up the victory. Dan Ruggiero scored on a 31-yard touchdown run with 7:38 left in the game (kick failed), and Clay Ardoin scampered for a 30-yard score only 3:27 later. Rogowski's extra point try was good, capping the scoring at 33-3.
The Saints, who led the Liberty League in turnovers in 2009 with 34, were unable to overcome two interceptions and two fumbles as Ithaca committed no turnovers. The Bombers finished with 98 rushing yards to the Saints' 61 and held a 177-95 advantage in yards through the air.
Ardoin was the game's leading rusher with 71 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown for the home team, while Mignott paced the Saints on the ground with 39 yards on 13 carries. Spadoni finished 6-of-14 for 75 yards in his first collegiate start for St. Lawrence, while Zappia was 11-of-23 passing for 177 yards for Ithaca. Ingrao's six receptions and 108 yards were both game-highs, while senior captain Tim Robinson led the Scarlet and Brown's offense with three catches for 68 yards.
Ithaca's Joe Gilfedder led all defensive players with nine total tackles, while Trevor Saunders, Phil Hamilton and Chris Palmer all had eight tackles for St. Lawrence. Palmer also added his first career sack.
The Saints will host Norwich University on Saturday, September 11 at 1:00 p.m. in the team's 2010 home opener at Leckonby