NEW BRITAIN - The Central Connecticut State football team might have wrapped up its first Northeast Conference title since 2010, as well as the program’s first FCS playoff berth, but the way the Blue Devils see it, there is still plenty to play for in the season finale this afternoon.
A win over Robert Morris would give CCSU its first eight-game winning streak in program history, and make it the first team to go undefeated in conference play since Albany in 2008. Add on that it is Senior Day for a group that has never had a winning season before this year, and the Blue Devils like their chances.
“This has probably been the hardest week of preparation,” CCSU head coach Pete Rossomando said. “You’re playing after a big game last week. But our leaders have done a great job of handling that. This is a great senior class. These guys have been through a lot of lows and not a lot of highs until this season. These are the guys that like the process. It should be a special day for them.”
This afternoon’s game also gives the Blue Devils a final tune up before their first playoff appearance, and it might not have come against a better team.
CCSU (7-3, 5-0) and the Colonials (2-8, 0-5) have gone in two different directions this season. The Blue Devils come in with a seven-game win streak, while Robert Morris has lost its last seven, with all but one game being decided by double-digit points.
“In their game last week [against Bryant], the final score [42-17] was not indicative of the game,” Rossomando said. “It was a close game that got out of hand at the end after a late fumble, things like that. They’ve been playing great defense. They have a great scheme and have a good group of players. It’s just that offensively, they’ve been playing a lot of young kids, especially on the offensive line, which is difficult.”
And it has been on the offensive side that has proven detrimental for the Colonials and quite the opposite for their opponents’ defenses. Robert Morris is averaging a league-worst 9.8 points per game this season, having scored 11 touchdowns with just 2,269 yards of total offense. The next closest team in terms of scoring in the NEC is Wagner at 20.6 points per game.
CCSU will see its fifth Division-I FBS transfer quarterback in Jimmy Walker, who came over from San Diego State. In eight games this season, Walker has completed 49.2 percent of his passes for 1,478 yards with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Converted receiver Harrison Dreher is the team’s leading rusher, with 385 yards, and has the Colonials’ only rushing touchdown this season. Tim Vecchio is Robert Morris’ leading pass catcher with 296 yards on 28 receptions with two scores.
“They have a lot of NFL-type packages,” Rossomando said. “They use a bunch of different shifts and motions and then run a number of simple plays out of that. We have to make sure we give them a multitude of different looks to get their young O-Line to talk. We want to make sure we put pressure on them and get them to make calls. But overall, we just have to play our defense.”
Offensively, expect the Blue Devils to establish the run as they have during their win streak, especially against a defense that has allowed 164.6 yards per game and four yards a carry.
But despite the Colonials giving up 28.9 points per game, Rossomando noted there are players this team has to account for, most notably linebackers Adam Wollet and Gerald Ferguson. Wollet leads both Robert Morris and the conference in total tackles, with 97, while Ferguson is tied for second in the NEC with 8½ sacks.
“They’re very multiple with a number of different looks and alignments,” Rossomando said. “They use their personnel very wisely and they do some things that are a little unorthodox. We just have to make sure we get some good runs to open up the play-action pass and try to maintain some rhythm. We didn’t do a very good job of that last week.”
If anything, the Blue Devils have shown an ability to avoid making the same mistakes two weeks in a row of late. They expect the same this afternoon.
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @DavidGlovach