NEW BRITAIN – It was a statement day for Central Connecticut State football (3-6, 3-2) Saturday afternoon as the Blue Devils rolled past Bryant University (5-4, 3-2) in a 30-15 final.
The Blue Devils struck first, getting an interception on Bryant’s Zevi Eckhaus on the second play on defense that was returned 30 yards for a touchdown.
The extra-point following the score missed, leading to a 6-0 contest with 8:19 to go in the first quarter.
That was the only action in the first quarter as both sides traded punts. A 4th down attempt on the following drive was stopped by CCSU on the +38-yard line, and the drive by CCSU following the turnover on downs went for nothing.
A second turnover in the game was committed by Romelo Williams, getting his pass knocked up and into the hands of Kenny Dyson Jr., who gave the Bulldogs a short field to work with on the 21-yard line.
Bryant capitalized off the turnover, getting a 9-yard passing score from Eckhaus to Landon Ruggieri. A good extra-point made it a 7-6 lead for the Bulldogs with 9:25 left in the half.
A 5 minute and 29 second scoring drive from CCSU came before the halftime horn, ending with a Tyshaun James 10-yard reception from Williams to give the Blue Devils the lead again with 23 seconds to go. A successful extra-point try from Joe Zoppi made it 13-7, a lead the Blue Devils didn’t surrender for the remainder of the game.
After two stalled drives from Bryant that ended in punts, and a Zoppi 25-yard field goal, the Blue Devils were able to get some more separation, scoring on a 4-yard run from Nasir Smithat 4:24 in the third quarter. The score was set up earlier in the drive by a Theo Zidor 26-yard reception. The lead ballooned to 20-7, putting Bryant in a bigger hole entering the fourth quarter.
Bryant and CCSU again traded punts in the fourth quarter before Eckhaus found Ruggieri again for a score, this time from 2 yards away. Conor Lathrop caught a pass on the 2-point conversion to make it 23-15, pulling Bryant back within striking distance with five minutes to go in the game.
The Blue Devils put the game to bed with Bryant backed up on its own goal line, following a punt that put them on the 3-yard line, with Kelvin Apari strip sacking Eckhaus to get the ball free.
Tre Jones fell on the ball in the end zone, and after a review of the play, the call stood as confirmed for a CCSU touchdown to make it 30-15 as time ran down.
With the Blue Devils now winners of two in a row, for the first time this season, the team is starting to take the shape of a team CCSU head coach Ryan McCarthy had envisioned entering the year.
After struggling through the first weeks of the season McCarthy made mention that the brand of football being played was not what they are looking for, and that it fell on leadership and coaching.
Now, with two convincing wins in succeeding weeks, he thinks they’re starting to turn a corner this season
“I believe so. (Bryant’s) a good team. … We have talent, … it was a matter of getting that talent going in the right direction, in the same direction,” said McCarthy. “I think we’re doing that. What’s really happening, from what I can see, is that the kids are taking more ownership. It’s not me or the coaches, they’re placing themselves. …. The kids are doing everything the right way and I’m happy for them. They deserve the victory today.”
Romelo Williams went for 15 of 21 passing with 168 yards and one score. On the ground, Williams led in rushing, utilizing his legs for a team-high 65 yards. Nas Smith had 45 yards with the one score and Aaron Dawson had 37 yards.
Tyshaun James led receivers with five catches for 58 yards and one score.
Defensively, the Blue Devils had three forced fumbles and eight pass break ups. They also had three sacks, with Apari getting 1 ½ sacks to lead the team.