There is an old adage in sports that says, “You’re only as good as your last game.” At Ithaca College, the hope is that the 2018 Bombers are as good as they were for eight of their last nine games.
Head coach Dan Swanstrom took the helm from longtime coach Mike Welch after the 2016 season, and hopes were high. Everyone knew that it takes a coach some time to gain his footing, so to speak, and when the 2017 Bombers dropped their first two games, people were not panicking.
Ithaca went on to win eight of their last nine games, and with a 4-1 Liberty League record, the Bombers tied for the league title in their inaugural Liberty League campaign. Ithaca’s offense averaged 24 points per game on 372 yards of average offense, and the defense yielded 15 points and 284 yards. Those numbers were good on both sides, and the Bomber faithful were as happy as they have been in a long time when the 2017 season drew to a close. After all, not only did I.C. pull off a thrilling come-from-behind 27-17 victory over Salisbury in the ECAC Scott Whitelaw Bowl, they put a 48-20 thumping on staunch rival Cortland to claim the Cortaca Jug for the first time in 8 years. Those two big wins have had Bomber Nation smiling for 9 months.
Swanstrom brings some serious credibility, despite only being a head coach for one season. He was a 2-time captain at Rhodes College, he played professionally in Germany and when he returned to his native Texas to coach high school ball, he had a hand in the development of Andrew Luck (of the Indianapolis Colts). Dan went on to coach at Johns Hopkins and Pennsylvania, and as a Quaker assistant helped lead Penn to the Ivy League title in 2015 and ’16.
Big time offensive fireworks might be the order of the day at Butterfield Stadium this year, as the dynamic duo of Wahid Nabi and Will Gladney are back and they are only a sophomore and a junior respectively. Nabi was the Liberty League Rookie of the Year, and he threw for 2,552 yards and 16 touchdowns while completing 63% of his passes. He set a Cortaca Jug record by connecting on six touchdown passes, and one of his favorite targets was wide-out Will Gladney.
Gladney – who hails from Owego – has garnered some attention to be sure. After grabbing 72 passes for 1,024 yards and 7 touchdowns last season, Gladney was selected as a First-Team Pre-Season All-American. His 1,000-yard season was only the second time a Bomber receiver had reached that number, as Joe Palumbo hauled in 74 passes for 1,119 yards in 1993.
On the defensive side of the ball, lineman Brian Gill is back for his senior season after a stellar 2017. Gill had 28 solo tackles and assisted on another 46 for 74 total tackles. He was a steady presence in the opposing teams’ backfields, as he had 7.5 sacks on his way to First Team All Liberty League and Second Team All ECAC honors.
Defensive back Tyler Kishbaugh also returns, having played all 11 games for the Bombers last year. Tyler had 10 tackles and a forced fumble at Brockport recorded 6 tackles against Hobart and logged four tackles and an interception on Nov. 18 against Salisbury. He finished the season with 40 tackles (18a, 22u), one interception, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries and was named to the Liberty League All-Academic Team.
Ithaca will open the season against St. Vincent at Butterfield Stadium on September 1, and will seek redemption a week later when they play the #6 Brockport Eagles, who handed the Bombers a lopsided loss in 2017. That game will also be played at home. For a look at the complete 2018 schedule, go to www.bombers.edu•