NEW BRITAIN - After a tough loss last week to Sacred Heart, the Blue Devils enter the weekend 1-5 (1-1) and are losers of its last four games.
But, things are due for a change this week.
The Blue Devils now play host to a scuffling LIU program that is currently 0-5. Across those games, the Sharks have only scored a combined 32 points, all of which have come in the first half of games, and have allowed at least 35 points in each game.
Despite a struggling conference opponent making the trip to Arute Field, CCSU head coach Ryan McCarthy knows they can't be dismissed as an easy win despite lopsided scores against bigger, stronger schools.
"They've played three FBS opponents. FIU, Miami of Ohio and West Virginia," said McCarthy. "Those three games also factor into the equation in terms of the numbers. We're not in any position right now (to dismiss a team). Every team we play is a must-win."
Last week in its loss to Sacred Heart, the Blue Devils were able to put together its finest game of the season when it came to running the ball. A combination of running backs, wide receivers and quarterbacks (eight combined) tallied a season-high 211 yards rushing, and was able to punch it home for a score twice.
Against a well-equipped Sacred Heart team, McCarthy felt the diversity in play calling and personnel helped with the success.
"I think, in terms of running the football,” said McCarthy. “... I said to our offense (last week) we need to find a way to run the football. I don't care what level you're playing at, you've got to run the football. We were able to run the ball with a mix of exterior runs. ... We hit them outside and inside, and there was a lot of multiplicity to the plan, and I think that's where we benefitted."
Now nearly a week later, McCarthy again echoes a familiar tone when it comes to how his team is going to succeed - run the football.
"We found ways to run the ball," said McCarthy. "I don't care how we do it, or what it is, we've got to be able to do it. ... We've got to be a little more balanced this week. ... "
On the defensive side, the Blue Devils failed to contain a Pioneers team that also had a quality running game. Former CCSU recruit torched the Blue Devil defense for 183 yards on 29 carries, scoring three times.
The Blue Devils were labored in the game, playing without notable talent in both the secondary and on the defensive line. Dexter Lawson and Kelvin Apari missed time in the game, and are currently pointed towards not playing against LIU this week either.
"We're going to be playing with a fair amount of guys that have not played in full-time roles,” McCarthy said. “... Both (Lawson and Apari) we didn't have for extended periods of time [and] we won't have this weekend. We're going to have to figure out and put in different pieces to the puzzle and still make it work. I thought our defense did extremely well for long spurts of the game."
In their place, McCarthy has a few players in mind, and will expect them to step up in the moment.
"One guy that we really need to get more productivity from, not that he's not playing well, is Noah Washington. He's the guy that has to up his level of play [in place of Apari]," said McCarthy. "We need him to be an elite player and I don't think I've seen that thus far. One guy that kind of lost gets lost in the fray is Tyler Boatwright. ... He's really got to be a guy that holds it down on one side. Kaiyon Gunn will be another corner, ... those guys we're going to need to get not just consistent play, but play where they take their game to the next level."
Leading CCSU entering Saturday is Romelo Williams' 1,151 passing yards on 54.9% passing. Without Nasir Smith in the backfield due to injury, the team's leading back, McCarthy will likely bring back the healthy mix of the rushing game between Williams, the three other running backs, and the wide receivers.
On the defensive side, Apari's 38 tackles and team-high 3 1/2 sacks will be missed, and Washington's expectations to step up from his six tackles this season will be a focus point on the defense. With a struggling offense that's only averaging 3.1 yards per play and 176 yards per game, he could get the jump start he needs
LIU and CCSU kick off at noon, from Arute Field in New Britain on Saturday.