by Daniel Fappiano
In a game where CCSU honored U.S. military and first responder personnel, it was the Blue Devils’ defense that played hero-ball, forcing four turnovers to help lead Central to a 28-10 win over St. Francis. The victory marked the sixth straight for Central, giving the Blue Devils a 6-3 record overall and a 4-0 record in the Northeast Conference.
Takeaways have been crucial to CCSU’s success throughout the season. Against St. Francis, the Blue Devils managed to come away with three fumbles and an interception. The final fumble was forced by senior Carlton Nash in the end zone for a touchdown.
The defensive score gave Central their sixth of the year, which leads all of Division I at both the FCS and FBS level.
While the turnovers led the way for the Blue Devils, their defensive effort overall was arguably their best of the season. The 10 points allowed was the second lowest of the season for CCSU, while the 123 yards gained is the lowest for a Central opponent all season.
Senior safety Najae Brown was awarded as Defensive Player of the Week,the NEC announced Monday. He had four total tackles, a fumble recovery and an interception.
Nash felt this was undoubtedly CCSU’s best defensive showing of the year. “I thought this was the best performance we had all year. We held them to one touchdown, they’re a great offense, they have great players, but I think we did a great job of just holding them to ten points. We knew we would have a chance to get turnovers and we did that, I’m really proud of my team.”
The Blue Devils’ improved defense has been vital during the team’s six game win streak. Takeaways have been a major focal point as CCSU continues to find ways to win. They’ll look to continue that momentum as they attempt to continue Central’s longest win streak since 2010.
On offense, senior running back Cameron Nash returned to form, rushing 21 times for 93 yards and a touchdown. Nash became the seventh player in CCSU history to rush for more than 2,000 yards in his career. Currently he sits third in the NEC and 20th in the FCS with 773 yards rushing. He leads the NEC and is tied for 10th in the FCS with 10 rushing touchdowns.
Nash wasn’t the only running back to find the end zone, as sophomore Drew Jean-Guillaume rushed nine times for 21 yards and a touchdown and caught seven passes for 21 yards and a TD. Jean-Guillaume, who has won back-to-back NEC Offensive-Player-of-the-Week awards, has been a dynamic weapon for the Blue Devils in 2017. The running back has scored 10 touchdowns in total, including at least one during each game of CCSU’s six game win streak.
Nash knew how important the run-game was going to be against a St. Francis team allowing a NEC-low of just 129 yards per game on the ground. “We had to be able to run the football; we couldn’t let them get us out of our game plan. We wanted to come out here and just play physical football and we know that’s how we were going to win the game.”
As for the passing game, quarterback Jake Dolegala struggled against St. Francis, completing 15 of 22 passes for 131 yards and one touchdown and two interceptions. While the stat line may not be pretty, Dolegala continued to chip away at Scott Dolch’s CCSU passing yardage record. At 5,270 career yards, Dolegala sits just 458 yards behind Dolch. With two games remaining in the season and another year of eligibility, it seems as if the junior QB will be a Central record-holder before it’s all said and done.
Head Coach Peter Rossomando knew how crucial this game was and was impressed with how his team responded. “Our defense played outstanding, our offense did enough, kids played great, played hard, played spirited, made plays when they needed to,” Rossomando said. “Each week they grow and find ways to win, and in the past we found ways to not win… I think it’s a testament to our coaches that do a great job of making adjustments and our players who quite honestly just believe right now, they believe in everything that’s going on, they believe in each other, so important.”
Going forward, the Blue Devils will take on Duquesne in essentially the NEC championship next week. With both teams undefeated in conference play, the winner will win the NEC and move on to the FCS playoffs.
Central has not been conference champions since 2010. However, that season they were co-champions with Robert Morris and did not advance to the FCS playoffs due to a tiebreaker. If CCSU were to beat Duquesne, it would be their first every appearance in the FCS playoffs.
Coach Rossomando knows how important this game and this opportunity is to his team. “I told the guys inside, this team was built for this, we’re playing a lot of juniors and seniors and that’s the difference. Those guys understand how to prepare, they know how to work smart, not just go out there and work aimlessly, but work smart. When we were 0-3 it’d be really easy to pack it in, they didn’t. They held strong, they kept working, and they believed in what they were doing and now we guarantee a winning season. Now we play Duquesne who is a great team, but it’s college football, anything could happen.”