by Daniel Fappiano
On Saturday Sept. 23, Central Connecticut State’s football team defeated Walsh 57-6 to earn their first win of the 2017 season.
Central Connecticut won the game due to their efforts in the run game; on both sides of the ball. Offensively, CCSU rushed for a total of 254 yards and six touchdowns. Offensive Coordinator Ryan McCarthy, was able to spread the ball around with four different Blue Devils rushing for a score on Saturday.
On defense, Central was able to hold the Cavaliers to just 180 yards rushing. However, most of that came on a 65 yard run by senior Kalvin Gordon in the first quarter. Eliminate that run, and CCSU allowed just 115 yards on the ground at a 3.2 yard per carry average.
Central Connecticut’s Head Coach Peter Rossomando, knew just how important this game was for the Blue Devils. Coming in at 0-3 with conference play on the horizon, it was crucial for Central to not only pick up the win, but gain some momentum going forward.
“Feels good, feels like the monkey is off our back a little bit,” Rossomando said about the team’s win. “It’s always better preparing for a game when you get a win rather than get a loss. Our kids have been working so hard, it’s unfortunate we played the schedule we played early, but you are what your record says you are. You got to get out and get a win so you can start building.”
Looking back on Central’s dominant run game, most of the damage was done by senior Cameron Nash. Nash ran the ball 14 times for 109 yards and two scores, averaging 7.8 yards per carry. The senior became CCSU’s first 100 yard rusher of the 2017 season, and first since Nash ran for 118 yards against Bowie State in 2016.
However, while Nash was a star, he was not alone in terms of production in the run game. Sophomore Drew Jean-Guillame rushed 14 times for 61 yards and two scores, whereas redshirt freshman Danley Exilhomme ran three times for 27 yards and a touchdown. Even quarterback Jake Dolegala got involved on the ground, scoring a one yard touchdown via a QB sneak in the second quarter.
Nash might’ve had his biggest game of the year, but he was quick to point out how the offensive line was key to the team’s success.
“The o-line was getting surge and moving people, anytime they do that, me, myself and all the other backs succeed. It was good those guys got going, they got some momentum heading into conference play and got more confidence under their heads. I think it should be a new trend moving forward week to week.
CCSU’s star running back went on to point out how a successful rushing attack can open up plays in the passing game. “If you could run like that, keep it going and then the play action, that’s how you get big plays. We keep running the ball until you stop it and then punish them when they come up.”
Nash’s point of view of the run game opening up big plays in the pass game was clearly evident against Walsh. In the second quarter, Dolegala hit Courtney Rush for a 42 yard catch, in which the junior receiver was wide open down the right field sideline.
Dolegala followed up that big gain by hitting Rush again for a 61 yard touchdown pass, midway through the second quarter. Much like their first act, Dolegala was able to find a wide open Rush over the middle who was untouched on his way to the end zone.
While the junior quarterback did have two big plays, he did nothing to impress during Saturday’s game. Dolegala’s stat line of 7-14 for 143 yards and a touchdown, looks much better than his 98 yard and one interception performance against Youngstown State. However, if you eliminate his two big plays, Dolegala’s stat line was a meager 5-12 for 40 yards.
Limiting turnovers will be key for Dolegala, as the Blue Devils enter conference play. But if Central wants to make noise in the NEC, the gunslingers’ output will need to catch up to that of the teams’ running backs.
Overall, Central Connecticut State’s offense had their best performance of the year. Their 57 points is more than their first three games combined. The run game looked explosive and helped carry the Blue Devils to victory.
Yet, even with a strong showing from the offense, Central’s defense was just as impressive. After allowing 59 points to Youngstown State, the unit was able to bounce back and hold the Cavaliers to just two field goals.
CCSU’s run defense was challenged early following the 65 yard run from Gordon. However they bounced back and allowed just 110 yards and the ground the rest of the way. They consistently swarmed the offensive line, and didn’t allow big gains until the game was out of hand.
But if Central’s run defense was great, then their pass defense was elite, as the Blue Devils didn’t allow Walsh to move the ball through the air. Overall, Walsh’s quarterbacks Nick Gassman and Mitchell Ault combined for just 8-16 for 59 yards and two interceptions.
The defensive highlight of the day for Central came in the first quarter, when senior Seth Manzanares picked off Gassman and returned it for a touchdown. Following the play, Walsh replaced Gassman with Ault.