By Brittany Burke
At the beginning of the season, the CCSU football team was predicted to take the Northeast Conference title, but as the University of Albany extended the Blue Devils’ (2-6, 1-4 NEC) losing streak to five with a 63-35 win, it is clear that a three-peat isn’t in the cards.
“Everybody worries because when you get disjointed like this it can go south, but I don’t believe these kids would quit,” said Head Coach Jeff McInerney. “It [has] been a while since they’ve lost five games, but as the leader I’m not gonna give you a line of crap … I gotta get it straightened out and I’m capable of it and now I just gotta prove it, they call it ‘show me.’”
The Great Danes (5-2, 4-0 NEC) came to Arute Field on a four game win streak and the chance to take the top spot in the NEC outright by remaining undefeated in the conference. The Blue Devils hadn’t lost five straight since the 1992 season.
Two quick, opening possessions put points on the board for both teams, but who was the more dominant team was clear as the first quarter forged on. Following Nick Bacarella’s 47-yard touchdown, the Great Danes retaliated with an additional 14 points.
Albany’s quarterback, Dan Di Lella had an explosive day through the air completing 57 and 34-yard passes to put his team up 21-7 over the Blue Devils.
CCSU managed to find the end zone two more times before the half ended with a quick rushing touchdown from Gunnar Jespersen and a jump, stretch completion to Deven Baker in the far corner. However, CCSU’s defense couldn’t contain the University of Albany, who had also gained another 14 points. The Great Danes found the endzone seven of its first eight possessions in the game.
The game remained a game of offense as the Blue Devils threw for 144 total yards in the first half opposed to Di Lella’s 185-yards, to keep the score within one possession. Jespersen finished the half with two passing and one rushing touchdown, while Di Lella threw four touchdowns.
“You gotta say the truth, it was not good on the defensive side,” said McInerney. “There was some good things offensively. I thought Jake White did some good job punting the ball, I think for the most part our kickoff coverage wasn’t horrible, we missed one tackle but competed on kickoff coverage, I thought our kickoff returns were good. I could never get punt block out there since [Albany] only punted once … and I thought Juan [Duque] did a good job kicking extra points …”
The third quarter began and was quiet for the Blue Devils’ offense, while the defense continued to struggle against a strong Great Dane team. No matter what defense CCSU ran, the Great Danes couldn’t be stopped, as Di Lella threw for a career and school high of five touchdowns.
Jespersen, who went 11-for-18 for 205-yards and no interceptions, shared time with sophomore linebacker Andrew Clements behind center. The dual quarterback is an option the Blue Devils have tried occasionally throughout the past seasons, but it hasn’t been as prevalent since Jespersen transferred to CCSU. While Denzell Jones and Jake White are the usual suspects to back up Jespersen, it was Clements who took the snaps. He wasn’t utilized for his throwing as much as his rushing abilities.
Clements took snaps as a result of Jespersen’s not being able to practice the majority of the week. He finished second in the team in rushing behind Brian Fowler, but he also threw for one interception, which resulted in a Great Dane touchdown and the 56-21 lead.
“The first half we weren’t disappointed, the second half we were a bit disjointed and then we got moving again at the end,” said McInerney. “Sometimes you go in and move the football and try to make too many adjustments. We had 229 yards at half time and then I’m the one who called the pass for Andrew when he threw the pick. He just started playing quarterback this week and he can do it, but it’s just like anybody when you’ve got bodies coming at you and you gotta throw a ball or two and when you first start you’re gonna throw it to the other guys sometimes and he’s just gotta learn to throw it away, because he can throw the football he’s just got to get used to it.”
A pitch to Chris Tolbert and Bacarella’s second touchdown of the game couldn’t save the Blue Devils as time ran out.
The Blue Devils are on the road to face St. Francis (PA) next weekend, but will return to Arute for the final home game of the season against Robert Morris on Nov. 5 at 12 p.m.