The football team reached the 3-0 mark for the first time since 1997 after quarterback R.J. Nitti ’17 converted four touchdown passes to Will Carter ’17 and Bobby Kaslander ’16, boosting the team to a 36-20 win at Sacred Heart on Sept. 20. In addition to the dynamic passing, the Bison defense continued to impress by holding the Pioneers to 300 total offensive yards, 117 short of their season average.
“Being 3-0 is a great accomplishment, but we know we have a long way to go before reaching our ultimate goal,” kicker Derek Maurer ’15 said. “The bigger accomplishment is becoming 1-0 for this week. If we continue to take each week at a time, we should be happy with where we end up.”
The Bison fell behind 10-0 in the second quarter, but Nitti countered the attack with his sensational passing. A three-play drive was capped by a 65-yard touchdown pass to Kaslander for the first Bison score. On the ensuing drive for the Orange and Blue, Carter was the recipient of a 38-yard touchdown throw by Nitti to take a 14-10 lead.
“Every offense is led by their quarterback, and R.J. has done that since the beginning of spring ball,” Carter said. “Also, our O-Line is experienced and is the best in the league, and has done an exceptional job of protecting our quarterback.”
In the third quarter, the Bison exploded for 16 points while holding the Pioneers scoreless. An interception and 60-yard return by Clayton Ewell ’16 resulted in a rushing touchdown for C.J. Williams ’17. Carter registered his second touchdown catch of the game on a 55-yard pass from Nitti at the 5:52 mark in the quarter. The Orange and Blue concluded the quarter with Maurer’s career-long 45-yard field goal.
“By keeping a collective level head, we are able to focus on playing each snap to the best of our ability,” Maurer said. “In addition, we have seen excellent production out of players with limited game experience going into the season. For these players to step up when we need them most has been invaluable.”
Nitti made one final mark on his career day by completing his final touchdown pass, a 19-yard throw to Kaslander that capped a nine-play, 55-yard drive in the fourth quarter. He finished 18-31 passing and tied his career-high with 271 passing yards. A major reason why the Bison were so successful in the second half was their ability to control the time of possession (17:40 in the second half).
“The core to our offense is without a doubt the offensive line. The veteran group has done a fantastic job this season blocking for our running backs, and giving R.J. time to throw in the pocket,” Kaslander said.
The defense was bolstered by Ewell’s two interceptions and 10 tackles, Lee Marvel’s ’15 career-high 12 tackles, and the team’s nine tackles for a loss. The Bison posted 311 yards of total offense, and Nitti completed at least two passes to six different teammates. He also became the first Bison quarterback since 1996 to throw four touchdowns in a game.
“We have proven that we can run and pass the ball effectively which makes us a difficult offense to stop. We have an extremely dynamic offense this year which is why I think we have been scoring a lot this season,” Kaslander said.
An opportunity for a 4-0 record is on the line, as the Bison return home to face Cornell tomorrow at 6 p.m.
“[Being] 3-0 for myself is incredible, something I have never had the privilege of saying. But for our team, it means so much more,” Carter said. “It shows we are a different team, a better team, a winning team. Hopefully 3-0 changes the culture at Bucknell to try and establish football as a must-watch.”