NEW BRITAIN - The Central Connecticut State football teamâ€™s recent string of success has the Blue Devils feeling confident as they re-enter conference play.
After starting out the season 0-3, CCSU has won its last three games and would like nothing more to make it No. 4 tonight.
What would make that victory even better is it would be against Wagner, a team the Blue Devils have not beaten since 2013, which also happened to be on the road.
â€śThe players have done a pretty good job of being level-headed,â€ť CCSU coach Pete Rossomando said. â€śThey donâ€™t get too high or too low. I can tell you as coaches, weâ€™re not taking it easy on them.â€ť
But this yearâ€™s Seahawks are much different than the ones the Blue Devils have faced in the past. Wagner (2-4) comes in averaging just 18 points a game on offense and as a result lost four of their last five games.
Some of that has to do with the Seahawks losing preseason All-NEC quarterback Alex Thomson for the season due to a shoulder injury, making them put great emphasis on the run game behind lead tailback Ryan Fulse and No. 2 back Denzel Knight.
Since Thomsonâ€™s injury, Luke Massei has been Wagnerâ€™s starting quarterback, but while heâ€™s completed 61 percent of his passes, Massei has thrown for just 500 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions in five games.
Fulse, meanwhile, has carried the ball 106 times for 574 yards. Knight has 65 carries for 327 yards and both have reached the end zone six times.
â€śThey have a two-headed monster,â€ť Rossomando said. â€śTheyâ€™re both equally as good. Fulse is more of the speed, slashing type runner, while Knight is more of the physical power back. But their offensive line is excellent. Theyâ€™ve returned four guys. Itâ€™s just that when teams load the box, it makes things difficult. And we gotta keep it that way.
â€śLast year we didnâ€™t do a good job of tackling once they got to the secondary. We have to do a much better job of filling in the gaps this time. They have home run hitters, not doubles, home runs in the backfield.â€ť
In other words, stop the run and it limits what Wagner is able to.
On the other side, the Seahawksâ€™ defense, while it has struggled as of late, has had moments where it can pose problems for opposing offenses.
Over its last three games, Wagner has given up an average of 35.7 points per game and 27 on the season.
But the Seahawks have been able to get to the quarterback on a regular enough basis with 17 sacks through the first six weeks.
â€śTheyâ€™re the most athletic team on that side of the ball weâ€™ve played since Syracuse,â€ť Rossomando said. â€śLast year, their secondary was suspect, but theyâ€™ve cleaned that up.â€ť
Inside linebacker Quintin Hampton has proven to be the most disruptive of the Seahawksâ€™ defenders, leading the team in both tackles (47) and sacks (6). The Blue Devils are also going to have to pay attention to their offensive line.
Wagner utilizes a three-man front and as such, will be bigger up front than Penn was last week.
â€śWeâ€™re young up front,â€ť Rossomando said. â€śSometimes they donâ€™t handle success as well as I would like. As a group, theyâ€™re not where I want to be yet, but theyâ€™re improving.â€ť
A way to help out that offensive line would be to establish the run game, something CCSU has been able to do in each of its last three wins, with Cameron Nash running for over 100 yards in each.
Nash, along with Drew Jean-Guillaume, has provided the Blue Devils with their own 1-2 punch.
It will also help having Joey Field and Jose Garcia back in the lineup to bolster a young receiving crops that has shown flashes as well as some growing pains around quarterback Jacob Dolegala.
â€śThey were a little rusty earlier in the week, but theyâ€™re good football players,â€ť Rossomando said of Fields and Garcia. â€śHaving been off the last couple of weeks probably did their bodies some good.â€ť
CCSU will soon find out.
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @DavidGlovach