NEW BRITAIN - It has been a season filled with more downs than ups in the early goings for the Central Connecticut State football team.
After three disappointing weeks, that have resulted in two blowout losses and one close one, the Blue Devils are still searching for that first win. This week might offer the best chance to do so as they host Division II Walsh University this afternoon.
“We’ve probably played the hardest schedule in the FCS,” CCSU head coach Pete Rossomando said. “We opened up against an ACC team in Syracuse, played one of the top teams in the Patriots League in Fordham and then played the national runner-up in Youngstown State. And the players understand that. They want to win games, but you have to execute to do so.”
Much like the Blue Devils, the Cavaliers have not had a lot of early season success, coming in at 0-3 as well. For a Division II team, however, Walsh has played some quality opponents. Against Jacksonville - another Division I FCS team - last week, the Cavaliers lost 56-31 and also happened to be their highest scoring output of the season.
Overall, Walsh is averaging just 13.3 points per game and 267.7 yards of total offense. But as evidence of what the Cavaliers were able to do at Jacksonville, Rossomando knows his defense will have to be consistent throughout the afternoon, which is something it has yet to do.
“[Walsh is] a little unconventional on offense in terms of their formations,” Rossomando said. “They’ll bring a tackle over for an unbalanced look and do some motions we have to watch out for. But they have some really good skill position guys. They play two young guys at QB. At times, they look good.”
Mitchell Ault and Nick Grassman are the quarterbacks for the Cavaliers, though neither is greatly experienced. Ault is a sophomore, while Grassman is a freshman. Ault has received more playing time, completing 68.3 percent of his passes for 284 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. Grassman is completing 48.4 percent of this throws for 180 yards with three interceptions.
Kalvin Gordon (28 rushes, 110 yards) and Quinn Thomas (11 receptions, 112 yards) are the top two weapons the Walsh quarterbacks rely on.
CCSU’s defense, which was gashed for 630 total yards - 496 of which came on the ground - against Youngstown State and has given up 562.3 yards per game on the season, should get a boost with linebackers Randall Laguerre and Kenneth Keen back from suspension and should be able to take advantage of the size and speed differential between the two teams.
“Defensively, you have to have to be ready for a lot of adjustments,” Rossomando said. “Communication has to be on point.”
This could also be a good game for the offense to build up confidence and rhythm. The unit is averaging just 241.7 yards per game and 15.7 points. After scoring nine or less in Weeks 1 and 3, a game like this could help the offense moving forward.
But with CCSU still struggling to run the ball consistently, that means the play of quarterback Jacob Dolegala will likely determine how effective the offense will be. Last week, the junior completed 13-of-28 passes for a mere 98 yards and one interception.
“Offensively, we have to do a much better job of staying on schedule,” Rossomando said. “We were in too many second and long situations last week and we have to complete passes. Jake played well at Syracuse. Fordham was probably his worst game as a Blue Devil. But I thought he rebounded last week. He’s a grinder. I feel good about where he is.”
And while his team may be anxious to get its first win, Rossomando still knows, Division II opponent or not, CCSU is going to have to earn it.
“No one gives you anything,” Rossomando said. “And so far, we haven’t earned anything. We have to go and earn it.”