By Evan Bourtis, Staff Writer
The pressure could not have been higher for the first freshman quarterback to start a game for the Fisher football team in 16 years.
That didn’t stop Collin Fiutko, leading his team to a 28-24 victory over Buffalo State on Saturday, Oct. 1, to help boost the Cardinals to a 5-0 record.
The crowd was full of Fisher students and alumni, with high expectations after a 42-38 victory against SUNY Brockport during the Courage Bowl the week before. Quarterback Matt Naton was undoubtedly the hero in that game, passing for 386 yards to help earn Fisher the No. 14 ranking in the nation.
However for Saturday’s start against the Bengals, Naton was forced to watch from the sidelines due to an injury to his non-throwing hand. Instead, the recent Lake Shore High graduate Fiutko took his place. Fiutko was a highly regarded quarterback in high school, but had never started a college game, nor had he ever been up against a defense as strong as Buffalo State’s.
Despite this pressure, the first pass of the game that Fiutko threw was a 78-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver William Coon.
This wouldn’t be just a game to remember for the Cardinals because of outstanding plays by their offense, but also because of equally outstanding plays by the Buffalo State offense that had spectators clueless to who the victor would be.
After a mix of short passes and rushes, Bengals running back Dale Stewart ran through the Fisher defense to tie the game 7-7. Then came a 71 run for a second touchdown by Buffalo State senior Tre Jones.
Late into the second quarter, the Fisher offense ran into trouble after a failed snap led to a fumble at the 28 yard line, with Fisher and Buffalo State tied at 14-14. The Cardinals’ defense struggled to take down Stewart, but managed to tackle him on third down at the 41 yard line. This gave Bengals’ kicker Marc Montana a difficult field goal attempt with four seconds left in the half, which was converted.
With 4:35 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Bengals lead the Cardinals 24-21. It was third down and Fisher still had three yards to go for a first down. All eyes were on Fiutko as he got ready for what would be the deciding play of the game. As the Bengals defense scrambled, Fuikto handed off the ball to senior Chris Smith, who immediately rushed through the defense, accidentally knocking over one of his own players, Khari Demos. Smith rushed past the first down marker all the way to the Fisher end zone giving the Cardinals the lead that it would not relinquish.
Fisher now prepares for another home Empire 8 matchup against Morrisville State College Saturday, Oct. 8 at 6 p.m. It is the first home night game of the season at Growney stadium, and a large crowd is expected.