PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- The St. John Fisher College football team forced six turnovers and turned them in 28 points as the Cardinals held on for a 35-28 non-conference win over visiting Bridgewater State University on Saturday afternoon at Growney Stadium. The two teams were meeting for the first time.
With the win, the Cardinals (2-0) extended its winning streak to four games dating back to last season. The Bears fall to 0-2 with the setback.
After punting on their opening possession, the Cardinals forced a fumble which was recovered by John Cleary at the Bridgewater 49. On the very next play, Hunter Walsh connected with Pat Galer on a 49-yard touchdown pass for the 7-0 lead.
On the very first play of the ensuing possession, Jason Rodriguez intercepted a pass to give Fisher outstanding field position at the BSU 45. Two plays later Dahmir Pross scored on a 15-yard TD run to make it a 14-0 game.
Trailing by 14 points with time running out in the first quarter, Bridgewater would respond after a botched punt gave the Bears the ball at the Fisher 23. Two plays later, Brad Thiltgen found Nathan Ellis with a ten-yard touchdown pass over the middle to cut the deficit in half.
After trading possessions over the first seven minutes of the second quarter, Bridgewater orchestrated an eight-play drive capped off with a 39-yard touchdown strike from Stefano D'Emilia to T.J. Hairston to make it a 14-13 game. The Bears, however, would miss the ensuing extra point as Fisher held the lead by a slim margin heading into the halftime break.
A pair of interceptions by Rodriguez and Evan Strassberger on successive BSU possessions in the third quarter both led to scores as Fisher opened up a 28-13 lead. Pross capped of a four-play, 32-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run, while Walsh also punched it in from a yard out to punctuate a seven-play, 32-yard drive.
Trailing by 15 points, the Bears would not go down quietly. A six-play, 60-yard drive that bridged the third and fourth quarters resulted in a 25-yard scoring strike from D'Emilia to Williams Watts. The Bears would convert the two-point try on a pass to Joseph Leanos to cut the deficit to 28-21.
A very short kickoff gave the Cardinals the ball at the BSU 49. Following back-to-back runs for no gain, Walsh delivered a 49-yard touchdown pass to TySean Sizer to stake the home team to a 35-21 cushion.
After an exchange of punts, the Bears took over at their own 35. D'Emilia completed eight passes on the 11-play drive including a 12-yard touchdown pass to Leanos on fourth-and-two. The extra point was true to make it a 35-28 game with just 2:41 showing on the fourth quarter clock.
The Bears chose not to attempt a traditional onside kick and the kickoff went out of bounds at the Fisher 20. Taking over at their own 35, the Cardinals needed one first down to ice the game. After a one-yard run and a false start penalty, the Bears were called for a personal foul to give Fisher the automatic first down.
Walsh was 13-for-35 in the win with 239 yards, two touchdowns and a pick. He also also rushed for 22 yards and a score.
Pross finished with a game-high 72 yards on 21 carries to go along with two touchdowns.
Sizer hauled in three receptions for 79 yards and a touchdown while Will Blake added 73 receiving yards on four grabs. Galer finished with two catches for 66 yards and a touchdown.
For the BSU offense, D'Emilia completed 26 of 42 pass attempts for 283 yards and three touchdowns with three interceptions. He became the sixth quarterback in BSU football history to reach the 4,000-yard passing milestone (4,165 yds).
The trio of Hairston, Watts and Leanos combined for 19 receptions for 227 yards and three scores for the Bears. Hairston led the way with seven catches for 86 yards and a touchdown, while Watts hauled in six passes for 72 yards and a score. Leanos grabbed six receptions for 69 yards and a touchdown and also recorded a two-point conversion.
Watts and Ellis both recorded their first collegiate touchdowns.
For the second straight week, Bridgewater could not get its ground game going. The Fisher defense held the Bears to seven net yards rushing on 27 attempts.
Defensively, Strassberger finished with a team-leading 11 tackles and an interception while Durrell Hutcherson had seven stops in all. Tony Silvanic was credited with seven tackles, a half sack and a fumble recovery while Cleary notched four tackles for a loss including two-and-a-half sacks and a forced fumble. Rodriguez added three tackles and two interceptions.
Steven Silvia recorded a team-best nine tackles for the Bears, while Ben McMahon, John MacDermott and Dimitri Dorinvil notched eight apiece. Chris Easter added four stops with an interception and two pass breakups.
Fisher finished with 385 yards of total offense, while the Bears accumulated 300 with 293 coming through the air. Bridgewater turned the ball over six times on four interceptions and a pair of fumbles. Fisher turned the ball over just once.
The two teams combined for 14 punts. D'Emilia averaged 46.6 yards on five punts with a long of 69 and two inside the 20. The Cardinals averaged just 27.6 yards on nine punts.
The Bears also had a 20-yard field goal blocked late in the first quarter trailing 14-7.
Both teams are back in action next Saturday afternoon. The Cardinals entertain The College of New Jersey at noon, while the Bears open Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) at home against Western Connecticut State University. Kick-off is slated for 3:30 PM.