MORRISVILLE — Get off to a good start and win the turnover battle. That's what head coach Curt Fitzpatrick was hoping for Saturday, and that's just what his Morrisville State College football team did.
Getting senior quarterback Brandon Gwinner back didn't hurt, either.
Gwinner, injured on Morrisville State's second offensive series a week ago in a loss to Cortland State, threw two touchdown passes that helped the Mustangs take a 21-3 lead and senior running back Nick Edmond ran for one score and threw for another in a 41-24 Empire 8 Conference victory over Utica College at Drake Field.
Morrisville won the turnover battle, too — the Mustangs didn't have any — and they didn't hurt themselves with penalties, another reason whey they were able to end a two-game skid and improve to 1-2 in the Empire 8 and 3-3 overall.
"We have the talent," Fitzpatrick said. "If we play smart, we're going to have a chance to win a lot of games. We didn't give them a chance to beat us because we played a pretty clean game."
Gwinner, a 6-foot-2, 210-pounder from Schenectady, was an efficient 11-for-16 for 210 yards and three touchdowns.
In the first half, Gwinner's 53-yard touchdown pass to Petrit Boga and a 50-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Cooper helped give Morrisville a 21-3 lead. In between, the Mustangs converted an interception by Jose Garcia at the Utica College 38-yard line into a 1-yard touchdown run by Ky'ere Tillery, his first collegiate touchdown.
"I was happy for (Gwinner) bouncing back like that and having a strong game," said Fitzpatrick, whose starting quarterback left last week's 51-14 loss to Cortland State for "precautionary" reasons.
"He was sound and he was a leader today. He's got big-time talent, but he doensn't have to be flashy. He played a mature game today."
Just as important was jumping on top early, especially with Utica College (1-2, 3-3) coming off a 33-7 victory over St. John Fisher College.
"It was big," Fitzpatrick said. "That was one of the most important factors. The way things went last week at Cortland (the Red Dragons led 30-0 at halftime), we thought it was real important to get out on top early."
Edmond's play was a major factor, too.
The Pioneers drove 78 yards in nine plays and when freshman quarterback Logan Wilcox threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to former Vernon-Verona-Sherrill star Nate Palmer, Morrisville's lead was cut to 21-10 at halftime.
Edmond, however, lined up in "wildcat" formation and threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Toure Hall Jr. early in the third quarter, and it was Edmond's 29-yard touchdown run later in the period that gave the Mustangs 35-16 breathing room. Edmond was a workhorse on the ground, too, finishing with 153 yards on 32 carries.
Gwinner's third touchdown pass of the day was a 37-yard toss to Raffaele Bradshaw.
Defensively, Garcia led Morrisville with 15 total tackles. Former Westmoreland Central star Rob Heitzmann IV made his first start of the season at outside linebacker and made 12 tackles. Omar Smith and Pat Barber had sacks and Garcia and Sadeeq Nathanel had interceptions for the Mustangs.
Morrisville was whistled for three penalties and Utica had nine penalties for 91 yards.
The Mustangs limited UC to 77 yards rushing. Wilcox completed 30-of-54 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns, two to Imani Vincent.
Peyton Miller led UC with 11 receptions for 127 yards. Vincent had nine catches for 97 yards and Palmer had five for 61 yards.
Kwasi Addo had 20 tackles and Antonio Scala had nine for the Pioneers, who next Saturday host Alfred (3-1, 4-2) in another Empire 8 game at 2 p.m. at Charles A. Gaetano Stadium. Alfred lost to No. 4 Brockport State 52-0 on Saturday.
Morrisville State plays an E8 game at St. John Fisher College (1-2, 1-4) at 2 p.m. Saturday. The Cardinals beat Hartwick College 42-14 on Saturday.
Morrisville State 41,
Utica College 24
Utica;0;10;6;8 – 24
Morrsville;14;7;14;6 – 41
M -- Petrit Boga 53 pass from Brandon Gwinner (Zan Stewart kick)
M -- Ky'ere Tillery 1 run. (Stewart kick)
U -- Maki Medici 31 field goal
M -- Jermaine Cooper 50 pass from Gwinner (Stewart kick)
U -- Nate Palmer 4 pass from Logan Wilcox (Medici kick)
M -- Toure Hall Jr. 40 pass from Nick Edmond (Stewart kick)
U -- Imani Vincent 17 pass from Wilcox (kick failed)
M -- Edmond 29 run (Stewart kick)
U -- Vincent 25 pass from Wilcox (Palmer conversion pass from Wilcox)
M -- Raffaele Bradshaw 37 pass from Gwinner