NEW BRITAIN - The Central Connecticut State football team wanted to put its Week 1 loss to Syracuse behind it. Now, it’ll have to do the same after Week 2.
As the Blue Devils walked off the field on Saturday, there was a sense of frustration and disappointment after an interception returned for a touchdown with 1:27 left in the game handed them a 38-31 loss to Fordham, dropping them to 0-2 on the young season.
But pick six aside, it was a game that should never have turned out the way it did. That might have been the worst part.
The Blue Devils jumped out to an early 17-0 lead less than three minutes into the game thanks to a 95-yard kickoff return by Tajik Bagley, a 32-yard field goal from Frankie Palmer and a 31-yard fumble recovery from Tymir Hinton.
After that, the offense managed just 14 points - a touchdown near the end of the second quarter and one in the third - to Fordham’s 38 and was outscored 17-7 in the second half. In the first half, CCSU compiled just 166 yards of total offense through eight drives. Just one led to an offensive touchdown.
“You can’t do that in a game like this,” Blue Devils head coach Pete Rossomando said. “You have to score.”
Some of it has to do with quarterback Jacob Dolegala missing wide open targets too often, which was a consistent problem throughout the day such as when he missed a wide open E.J. Smith running down the middle of the field for what would have been a sure touchdown and a potential game winner with 1:22 left in the fourth quarter.
Some of it had to do with the ineffectiveness of the running game. As a team, CCSU rushed 25 times for just 70 yards and average 62 yards on the ground for the season. Finally, some of it also had to do with the Rams facing Army in Week 1, which runs a triple option, a completely different style of offense than the Blue Devils run.
Overall, CCSU was just 2 of 13 on third down. The Rams were 7 of 16.
When asked if the offense had relaxed a little having such a sizeable lead to work with so early on, Dolegala’s response was short, but completely accurate.
“No, we’re not good enough to do that yet,” he said.
And he’s right. Over their last two seasons, the Blue Devils have had point differentials (meaning how much more its opponents score than it does) of -8.4 (2015) and -12.5 (2016). Last season, CCSU scored fewer than 20 points four times, all losses. Through two games this season, its point differential is -25. Of course, the 50-7 loss to Syracuse in the season opener skews the numbers. But in order to win games, points have to be put on the board and on Saturday the unit accounted for just 14 if you take away Palmer’s field goal.
So, what is the reason for the offensive struggles? As Dolegala put it, it is a matter of everyone not being in sync.
“Offense has a lot of moving parts,” Dolegala said. “Everybody has to do the right thing on every play to be successful, and obviously, we weren’t.”
And it starts with the quarterback. Dolegala completed just 18 of his 41 throws for 224 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. On the season, he is completing just 40 percent of his passes.
Dolegala will have to make more plays if CCSU wants to have its first winning season since 2010.
“He’s got to make throws and I can put it on his shoulders because he knows he’s our guy and we love him,” Rossomando said. “He’s going to be our starter next week under center, but he’s got to make throws. He’s got to make plays.”
Of course, not everything from this game falls on the offense. The defense was just as much to blame at times.
Despite limiting the Rams to one rushing touchdown and preventing a 100-yard rusher, Fordham did most of its damage through the air.
Rams quarterback Kevin Anderson went 17-of-29 for 265 yards and three touchdowns, one of which went 30 yards to Andrew Prince with six seconds left in the third. That play, not the pick six, was the turning point of the afternoon, according to Rossomando.
Compared to the Blue Devils' 294 total yards, Fordham totaled 471 even though CCSU came away with three turnovers.
“Defense has to put together a good, full week of practices,” Blue Devils linebacker Randall Laguerre said, “because Youngstown State is a pretty good team, probably the best we’re going to play so far.”
Hopefully, that’s all CCSU will need to earn its first win of the season. The players and coaches believe the talent is there. It just has to materialize on the field.
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @DavidGlovach