Bryant blown away in second half by CCSU
SMITHFIELD — Central Connecticut State reserve running back Danley Exilhomm was simply trying to accrue a first down to keep the clock moving late in the fourth quarter of the defending Northeast Conference champion’s clash with upstart Bryant Saturday when the Blue Devil broke loose for a 48-yard touchdown run.
It was just that kind of second half for the Bulldogs.
After scoring the game’s first 14 points on an Issac McCray six-yard touchdown run and a Eulogio Portugal 98-yard interception return for a touchdown, the Bulldogs were dominated in every aspect of the game. CCSU quarterback Jacob Dolegala produced 302 yards of total offense and four touchdowns and the visitors ran for an impressive 442 yards in a 48-14 hammering of the Bulldogs at Beirne Stadium.
“We played an extremely poor second half against an excellent football team,” said Bryant coach James Perry after the Bulldogs were outscored 28-0 in the second half. “We didn’t play very well. This game was disap- pointing, the second half in particular because I thought the kids played hard. We’ll look at it and see what we need to do better.”
Bryant (4-2, 2-1 Northeast Conference) saw its six-game conference winning streak come to an end to the Blue Devils, who just happen to be the last NEC team to hand the Bulldogs a defeat. Just like that contest in New Britain last October, Saturday’s game turned when the Blue Devils held Bryant out of the end zone on a goal-to-go situation in the final seconds of the second quarter.
Trailing by six points, Bryant advanced to the Central Connecticut 1-yard line when senior quarterback Price Wilson hit receiver Vinny Nisivoccia for a 15-yard completion. Wilson followed with an incompletion and then he fumbled the ball and CCSU recovered it after a sack by Tymir Hinton. Wilson, who completed 14-of-34 passes for 168 yards, and the Bulldogs produced just 119 yards of offense in a scoreless second half.
“Yes, very much so,” CCSU coach Peter Rossomando said if he was surprised by his team’s defensive display. “I thought our defense really stepped up and defended the pass about as well as we’ve defended. I think we’re starting to figure it out. We’re not any champs right now, we’re trying to win a championship just like every other team in this conference. We were the champs last year, but we’re a completely different team.”
Central Connecticut State (4-3, 2-0 NEC) has rushed for nearly 800 yards in the last two weeks thanks to lead back Drew Jean-Guillaume, who carried the ball 23 times for 203 yards and a touchdown Saturday. Aaron Dawson produced 99 yards and a touchdown, while Dolegala scored three times and compiled 78 yards on seven carries.
For Perry, whose defense allowed just 66 rushing yards last week in a one-point road win over Duquesne, CCSU’s dominant running game was the most disheartening part of a long, frustrating afternoon.
“That’s an elite football team and this league just keeps getting better,” Perry said. “If you want to be the champion of this league, as you saw today, you’re going to have to beat one of the best teams in the country. That’s how they played. The whole second half they did everything very well, so we’ll take a long at how they ran it at us.”
Former Hendricken quarterback Chris Hindle earned the start for the Bulldogs and led the squad on a nineplay, 69-yard touchdown drive that culminated in Middletown’s McCray scoring a six-yard touchdown. Bryant doubled its lead later in the first quarter when Dolegala made his lone mistake when Portugal intercepted his pass and went a school-record 98 yards for a touchdown.
Hindle and Wilson split the snaps in the first half before Wilson ran the offense for the entire second half, except for the final drive when the game had long been decided.
“Chris had a good week of practice, but Price is our quarterback,” Perry said. “I’ve had good success playing guys over the years and Chris gave us a good spark on that first drive. We’ll see what we do moving forward, but Price is our quarterback.”
Dolegala only threw one incompletion over the final 50 minutes of the game, as he led CCSU on three scoring drives in the second quarter to give the road side a lead it would never relinquish.
Bryant drove the ball all the way to the Central Connecticut 12-yard line on the first drive of the third quarter, but just like at the end of the first half, the Blue Devils stopped the Bulldogs on fourth down to start a dominant second half.
Central Connecticut stretched the lead to 14 on a Dolegala eight-yard touchdown run with 1:51 left in the third quarter. Jean-Guillaume had an 86-yard touchdown run brought back because of an early-celebration penalty, but the back quickly atoned for his mistake with a 14-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.
Dolegala (18 yards) and Exilhomm (48 yards) added touchdown runs later in the fourth quarter to complete Bryant’s miserable afternoon. The Bulldogs will step out of conference Saturday when they travel to the Bronx to face Fordham.
“We’ve had a lot of big tests like last week when we went on the road against an excellent football team and won,” Perry said. “My focus is on what I can do better to make sure that second half never happens again.”