by Sean Begin
After three straight losses following the opening week upset victory on the road of ranked Towson, Central Connecticut football needed something big to lift them up heading into the bye week.
They got that spark from senior running back Rob Hollomon.
Hollomon ran for a single-game career-high 238 yards (including two huge touchdown runs of 54- and 74-yards) in Central’s 38-14 drubbing of the University of Rhode Island on Saturday, en route to eclipsing 3,000 career rushing yards. He is the third Blue Devil of all time to reach that mark.
“It’s great for him because he’s been frustrated a little bit,” said head coach Pete Rossomando. “The great thing about Rob is he just keeps going and going and going. Whatever we want to do, he’ll do it. He’s been great with that stuff. It’s just a matter of making sure he stays calm.”
“I work hard just like everyone else on my team. My coaches put me in a great position to continue to have success,” said Hollomon after the game. “I’m proud, I’m happy. It’s a great feeling anytime you can move up in the record books. It shows your hard work paying off.”
The Blue Devil offense has struggled during the last three games, since the surprising upset of Towson to open the season. But, thanks to good offensive line play, Hollomon was able to find some holes to exploit against the URI defense.
“I love my offensive line. I talk with those guys every day on the little things,” said Hollomon. “I try to keep them motivated and let them know all I need is a little bit and I’ll make you guys the number one offensive line out there. We have fun with it.”
Hollomon had 74 yards rushing heading into the first half on 16 carries, a 4.6 per carry clip. The big rush of the first half, though, came from junior quarterback Nick SanGiacomo, who rushed for a 38-yard touchdown. It was the first time all season Central scored the first points of the game.
Hollomon finally broke through in the second half with his two TD runs. The scores came within 1:53 of each other, blowing the game wide open. Central added another couple scores on a SanGiacomo pass to junior wideout Aaron Berardino and a 7-yard rush by backup QB Quinn Fleeting, the first of his career.
Saturday’s contest was a far cry from the team’s first game at Arute Field this season, when they were shutout by Albany. It also marks the continued improvement of the offense since then; this was the second straight game scoring at least 25 points.
“I really think we’re getting better. Every week I thought we we’re making strides,” said Rossomando. “It wasn’t showing up really on the scoreboard but I thought we we’re getting better. We still are. We’ve got a lot of room for improvement, especially offensively but I think we’re getting there.”
Getting Hollomon past the first level of the defense and into open space was just one step to finding a smooth flowing offense. Getting junior quarterback Nick SanGiacomo acclimated to Rossomando’s system was another.
“He’s getting more comfortable with what we’re doing,” said Rossomando of his starting QB. “We’re shrinking the package a little bit. It’s in his comfort zone. He’s been doing a great job preparing each and every week. He didn’t do a great job in the red zone last week but he played well overall in the game.”
SanGiacomo finished the game 15-for-23 with 148 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. He also ran for 43 yards and a score.
With the offense clicking, pressure to perform was taken off the shoulders of the defense, which managed to hold URI to just 14 points and less than 300 total yards of offense. The Rams were limited to just 60 rushing yards all game.
“They [the defense] played great,” said Rossomando. “Even the last drive that was mostly our backups and third-string guys, just trying to get them some reps and rest some of our guys who have played a lot of snaps so far this year. Defense was outstanding I’m so proud of those guys.”
Central was led by senior Shawn Robinson and sophomore Julian Grant, who each had six tackles in the game. The Blue Devils sacked the URI quarterback three times, with solo sacks coming from sophomore Asia Bolling and freshman Shacor Privott. Central also had two turnovers: an interception by sophomore Ahmond Gomez and a forced fumble by Andrew Murdock.
The Blue Devils will return to action following their bye week, when they take on Duquesne on Saturday, October 11 in the annual Homecoming Game.