by Daniel Fappiano
As Central Connecticut State University began their conference play, the Blue Devils knocked off the Sacred Heart Pioneers, 26-15. The win marked the third time in three years that CCSU defeated Sacred Heart during NEC play.
In what has become the norm for Central Connecticut, the team’s rushing attack led the offense during the victory. Senior Cameron Nash rushed 21 times for 157 yards, equaling a 7.5 yard per carry average.
The senior has now rushed for over 100 yards the past two games. Nash currently leads the NEC with 420 total rushing yards and 6.1 yards per carry. Nash’s play is not only impressive in the stat sheet, but his ability to run the ball has allowed for CCSU to execute big plays on the play action.
Against Sacred Heart, quarterback Jake Dolegala was able to complete a 78 yard pass to receiver Courtney Rush to set the team up in the red zone. Dolegala later hit running back Drew Jean-Guillaume for a 70 yard touchdown, giving the sophomore rusher two scores for the game.
For the game, Dolegala completed nine of 21 passes for 201 yards and a touchdown. Following Saturday’s game, Dolegala has 4,715 career passing yards, good for third most in CCSU history.
Overall, it was the Blue Devils run game that helped lead them to a victory. Nash had another big game, and continues to be one of the best rushers in not just the Northeast Conference, but the entire FCS.
However, while CCSU’s offense looked solid, it was the defense that stole the show. After allowing just six points to Walsh last week, the Blue Devils’ defense followed suit by forcing five turnovers against Sacred Heart.
Pioneers’ quarterback Kevin Duke, threw three interceptions and fumbled twice in what was a rough performance for the senior. As for Central, senior safety Jarrod Cann came away with two interceptions, with junior safety Tymir Hinton picking off one.
Hinton also forced one of the two fumbles with sophomore defensive lineman James Dumas, forcing the other. The fumbles were recovered by freshman defensive lineman James Kennedy, and junior defensive lineman Chris Tinkham.
Central also blocked a punt earlier in the game on Sacred Heart’s side of the field. The blocked punt helped the Blue Devils score the opening points of the game, with Jean-Guillaume rushing for his first touchdown on a six yard scamper.
CCSU’s defense was certainly helped by the return of senior cornerback Jevon Elmore. Elmore is a former preseason All-NEC conference team member. He was forced to sit out all of 2016 with an injury. If Elmore could return to his 2015 form, he would be a major boost to the Blue Devils’ defense.
Overall, Central Connecticut’s defense looked dominant for the second week in a row, allowing just three total points until the fourth quarter. After rough games against admittedly tough opponents in Syracuse and Youngstown State, it appears the Blue Devils’ defense has found their groove.
With a win over Sacred Heart, Central Connecticut now sits tied at first atop the NEC with St. Francis. They’ll take on Penn next week before returning to conference play against Wagner.
As for the rest of the NEC, Central vs. Sacred Heart was the only conference game on the schedule. Next week, Duquesne will take on Wagner as both teams will look to win their first game in conference play.
For the Blue Devils, the team has their first two game winning streak since 2015. They’ll look to continue the momentum, as they attempt to win their first NEC title since 2010.