Tag Archives: football

Blue Devils Remain Positive

By Tommy Liljedahl

Despite a disappointing 0-5 start, the CCSU football team remains optimistic during a much needed bye week.

“Obviously, this is not the start we wanted,” said Head Coach Jeff Mcinerey. “But we knew this team was going to take some time to take shape, especially with the new quarterbacks.”

Andrew Clements, junior, and Nick Sangiacomo, freshman, have been splitting snaps at QB for the Blue Devils, both experiencing some successes along with failures. While Sangiacomo threw three touchdowns in a 34-21 loss to Sacred Heart last week, he also threw three interceptions, including a late one that was returned for a touchdown, breaking the game wide open. Since a solid performance in the home opener, Clements has experienced struggles of his own, throwing three picks in a 43-10 loss at New Hampshire on Sept 15.

Clements will start in CCSU’s homecoming game versus Duquesne this upcoming Saturday, Oct 13.

“They’re both talented kids, no doubt,” McInerney said. “The ups and downs are to be expected, they just need to keep improving and get hot. There are a lot of other issues we need to work on.”

These issues include giving up big plays, as well as a mediocre third down offense and defense. However, they managed to hold Sacred Heart to 3 of 11 on third down, while converting 9 of 20 on third down. They also held Sacred Heart to only 261 yards on offense. Thwarted by a missed extra point, a blocked punt, and three turnovers, CCSU was left with a lot to build on heading into their bye week.

“This team is getting better and will win games,” McInerney said confidently. “A defeated team doesn’t practice this hard. The bye week has already given us a chance to regroup and improve.”

Lorenzo Baker, senior captain and outside linebacker, echoed the coach’s sentiments.

“Character is what you are, record is what people think you are. We’ve been working as hard as ever, and a few plays could have had our games going either way,” said Baker.

As a senior, Baker hopes to make the most of his final six games here at CCSU, and expects the younger players to follow his lead.

As grim as their record looks, CCSU has faced a brutal schedule which has included Stony Brook, who beat Army; New Hampshire, who holds the longest run in the FCS Top 25 poll; and Lehigh, ranked 11th in the FCS.

The schedule is no excuse, however, according to Coach McInerney.

“It’s on me, the players have practiced and played extremely hard and will continue to compete with integrity. I have to do a better job,” McInerney said.

McInerney expressed gratitude towards the student body and their willingness to come out and support the Blue Devils.

“I really appreciate the crowds and support we’ve been getting, and hope we can provide the fans with our first win in the homecoming game against Duquesne,” said McInerney. “Sometimes you have to fail your way to success.”

A Bittersweet Senior Day

The Blue Devils seniors and their families. Photo: Kenny Barto

By Brittany Burke

Fourteen graduating seniors took to Arute field in front of family, friends and Blue Devils fans for the last time Saturday to play Northeast Conference rivals, the Robert Morris Colonials. In the final home game of the season, CCSU managed to snap a six-game losing streak, while handing RMU its fourth consecutive loss, 31-24.

Fifteen Blue Devils were honored in the pre-game ceremonies, despite only fourteen suiting up for the game. The atmosphere around Arute grew solemn as the seniors lined up on the sidelines with family members flanking them on either side. The first player honored was number 94, Rich Royster. The 2011 season was dedicated to Royster, who was killed in a car accident, and it was his mother who met Head Coach Jeff McInerney and Athletics Director Paul Schlickmann at midfield.

“[Senior day is] sad, always sad,” said Head Coach Jeff McInerney. “There are some people you truly love whether you win or lose or draw. I always tell them this, the wins and losses, championships, come and go, but relationships stay for a lifetime and I’ve known some of these kids since right after they’ve shown up out of high school. I can tell you something about every one of them and they’ve all had tough and hard times.”

Many of the players on the CCSU football team (3-7, 2-5 NEC) are recruited right from Connecticut, so it is always special to have longtime friends and family come see them play at home one final time. This senior class had a hand in the 2009 outright NEC championship as well as the 2010 co-NEC championship.

“This is probably my last time ever playing football in New Britain,” said senior linebacker, Isaiah Boddie. “I mean I’ve been playing football in New Britain my entire life, since I was little. So it’s definitely special, especially since I’ve been with these guys … it’s special.”

Prior to the defeat of RMU (2-9, 2-4 NEC), CCSU hadn’t won since Sept. 17 at Wagner, and the fans hadn’t seen a home win since the season opener against the Southern Connecticut State University Owls. The early lead provided by Brian Fowler’s 9-yard run was also the first lead since Oct. 8 in the loss against UMass.

Fowler, a graduating senior, had two touchdowns in the game and 91-yards. He finished second in rushing for the Blue Devils behind running back Chris Tolbert.

Tolbert had an explosive game, finishing with 162-yards rushing and 23-yards receiving. While it may have been senior day, it was the sophomore who had a career-high game, breaking the 100-yard mark for the first time.

“Really just the line was opening the holes and I was just running through them, just making my reads, just opening up,” said Tolbert. “I thought we could’ve done this all season but it is what it is and the win today felt good.”

David Sabilia and Raul Debenendittis also had a hand in securing points for the Blue Devils. Sabilia scored with under two minutes to play in the half following a 15-yard RMU personal foul. The seven points was the first for Sabilia, who plays both tight end and offensive linebacker.

Debenendittis on the other hand had the only touchdown in the third, which was dominated by the defense.

“We had a good scheme out there today,” said graduating quarterback Gunnar Jespersen. “We were opening up the run with the pass, opening up the pass with the run, the way we had our line blocking down at that front opened up for Chris and Fowl, and they looked good. They ran the ball well and we needed that. I think we got sick of where we were at and finally pulled out of it.”

Over the past six weeks the Blue Devils had gotten away from the nitty-gritty fundamentals of football, but offensively things seemed to click for CCSU. Aside from Tolbert’s record game, the Blue Devils also racked up a season high 279-yards rushing.

Defensively there are things that still need to be worked on, but the team is continually building foundations for next year’s roster. While CCSU got up early, RMU managed to score 10 unanswered points, however following the half the team came out with an additional fire.

“[I] had to yell at them at half time, the defense, which I hadn’t had to yell at a team in about four years,” said McInerney. “The problem was handled and [the team] responded and went out and had a bunch of three-and-outs. I’m just happy for our seniors, and we needed that in a bad way to build on our future I think that was obvious.”

A Tyrell Holmes interception kept the Colonials out of the end zone and gave CCSU the chance to get more points on the board, resulting in a 31-yard field goal.

Prior to the half, RMU quarterback Jeff Sinclair had to be helped off the field and was later replaced for the remaining quarters by freshman back Matt Layman.

The Blue Devils now have momentum going into a bye week before traveling to Bryant to finish out the season.

“Us being 3-7, there’s been some things that I didn’t do well, there’s been things that the assistant coaches didn’t do well, and there’s things that some of the players, when you win two championships, not that they’re bad kids, they forget little things and the extra things it takes to win, you just don’t show up and it happens … I learned a valuable lesson so I’m excited I’d like to end this season on a two game winning streak,” said McInerney.

CCSU Ends Losing Streak, Beats RMU 31-24

By Brittany Burke

Fourteen graduating seniors took to Arute field in front of family, friends and Blue Devils fans for the last time Saturday play Northeast Conference rivals, the Robert Morris Colonials. In the final home game of the season CCSU managed to snap a six-game losing streak, while handing RMU its fourth consecutive loss, 31-24.

While it was the last game for fourteen athletes, fifteen Blue Devils were honored in the pre-game ceremonies. The atmosphere around Arute grew solemn as the seniors lined up on the sidelines with family members flanking either side of them.

The first Blue Devil honored was number 94, Rich Royster. The 2011 season was dedicated to Royster, and it was his mother who met Head Coach Jeff McInerney and Athletics Director Paul Schlickmann at midfield.

Prior to the defeat of RMU, CCSU hadn’t won since Sept. 17 at Wagner, and the fans hadn’t seen a home win since the season opener against the Southern Connecticut State University Owls. The early lead provided by Brian Fowler’s 9-yard run was also the first lead since Oct. 8 in the loss against UMass.

Fowler, a graduating senior, had two touchdowns in the game and 91-yards. He finished second in rushing for the Blue Devils behind running back Chris Tolbert.

Tolbert had an explosive game, finishing with 162-yards rushing and 23-yards receiving. While it may have been senior day, it was the sophomore who had a career-high game, breaking the 100-yard mark for the first time.

David Sabilia and Raul Debenendittis also had a hand in securing points for the Blue Devils. Sabilia scored with under two minutes to play in the half following a 15-yard RMU personal foul. The seven points was the first for Sabilia, who plays both tight end and offensive linebacker.

Debenendittis on the other hand had the only touchdown in the third, which was dominated by the defense.

Over the past six weeks the Blue Devils had gotten away from the nitty-gritty fundamentals of football, but offensively things seemed to click for CCSU. Aside from Tolbert’s record game, the Blue Devils also racked up a season high 279-yards rushing.

Defensively there are things that still need to be worked on, but the team is continually building foundations for next year’s roster. While CCSU got up early, RMU managed to score 10 unanswered points, however following the half the team came out with an additional fire.

A Tyrell Holmes interception kept the Colonials out of the end zone and gave CCSU the chance to get more points on the board, resulting in a 31-yard field goal.

Prior to the half, RMU quarterback Jeff Sinclair had to be helped off the field and was later replaced for the remaining quarters by freshman back Matt Layman.

The Blue Devils now have momentum going into a bye week before traveling to Bryant to finish out the season.

Too Little, Too Late

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.

Third Time’s Not A Charm

By Brittany Burke

When Gunnar Jespersen rushed into the end zone for a one-yard touchdown with 5:03 to play in the third quarter to put the Blue Devils behind just one score, it seemed as if the CCSU comeback team from previous seasons was making an appearance against the University of Massachusetts. Despite the close quarter, CCSU let the Minutemen get out ahead and eventually win, 42-26.

The loss at UMass was the third in a row for CCSU, who was predicted to win it all at the beginning of the season. The Blue Devils have gotten into a funk after the back-to-back home conference losses, which continued in Massachusetts Saturday night.

Despite the loss the Blue Devils did start to look like a team again on both sides of the ball. Defensively CCSU held UMass to an initial field goal on its first drive of the game and got to the quarterback four times for a 27-yard net loss.

“We looked like a football team tonight. I was very, very proud of what we did and offensively and defensively,” said Head Coach Jeff McInerney. “We competed extremely, extremely hard. The two points on the safety, the missed extra point, the return for a kickoff, that’s what happens when you play, but you’ve got to give UMass credit.”

Chris Linares led the defense with 10 tackles while Charles Williams, Dominic Giampietro, Patrick Atkinson, Gene Johnson and Andrew Clements all had hands in getting to Brandon Hill.

The run defense, which is something that has given CCSU issues in the past, managed to contain UMass’ major runningback, Jonathan Hernandez. Hernandez led the team going into Saturday’s game with 519-rushing yards, while also being ranked eighth in the nation for rushing yards per game, averaging 130-yards per game.

“He’s a great player,” said McInerney. “I thought our run defense was great, but here’s what you can’t do, you can’t play nine great ones and get the 70-yard in the first, unfortunately there are no moral victories you’ve got to give UMass credit … we competed and our run defense, we did some good stuff but again it wasn’t good enough.”

The Blue Devils had his number and held Hernandez to 75-yards for 20 attempts, while still allowing him to score twice.

The major trouble for CCSU came with ball security, like it has in previous games. The team kept the fumbles at zero, but two major interceptions helped give the Minutemen the edge it needed to get the victory.

UMass intercepted Jespersen twice for 128-yards, but the major interception came with under two minutes left in the game as CCSU was going in for another touchdown. Darren Thellen ran his interception back 85-yards for the final touchdown with 1:33 of the game left, with no hope of a CCSU comeback.

“We were alive in the locker room and moving around on the sideline,” said Jespersen. “It looked good, it felt good and we came out and we played in the second half, unfortunately I turned the ball over, we turned the ball over too many times, a lot of that starts with me, something I’ve got to clean up and we’ll go from there.”

The Blue Devils took the early 7-3 lead with a 69-yard, drive resulting in a Jespersen touchdown, but the first UMass touchdown and a safety put the Minutemen ahead by five early in the second quarter.

UMass was able to continually build on its lead through the first half with another field goal and touchdown, to lead the Blue Devils 22-7, but Chris Tolbert jumped into the endzone to cut the deficit to 22-13 with under a minute in the half.

Even with Jespersen’s and Raul DeBeneditis’ third quarter touchdowns to put CCSU within two, the Blue Devils could not pass the Minutemen. A 90-yard kick-off return for seven put UMass ahead even further, eventually ending in the interception return.

“We’re a work in progress,” said McInerney. “I’m very proud and it did look like football. It was much better, but you don’t get moral victories, so we’ve got to carry this on to Duquesne. We’re going to Pittsburgh, we’re getting on a bus next Thursday night to go out there and play a conference game and they’ve got to want it as bad as we just did [today].”

The Blue Devils are on the road next week and will return back to action on Oct. 22 to take on Albany at 12 p.m. in a Northeast Conference matchup.

Blue Devils’ Fire Dimmed

By Brittany Burke

The cloudy sky and threat of rain that surrounded the CCSU campus Saturday morning didn’t divert the loyal Blue Devil family and friends from filling up the Kaiser three hours before kickoff. Blue pop-up tents could be seen throughout the lot, occupied by alumni, fans, groups of students, and the team families.

The excitement heightened as the marching band made its way to the stands and the anonymous students in the blue and lime green suits ran around hyping up the tailgaters. All the commotion was in support of Blue Devils homecoming, the most highly anticipated home game of the football season. In spite of the dismal weather, people had hope that the Blue Devils would rebound from last week’s loss and come away with a win over the Sacred Heart Pioneers, but that didn’t happen.

“I’m a senior and this one hurt man, it really hurt,” said London Lomax. “This is the last time me and Gunnar and a lot of us get to have a homecoming and I think we all got to take pride in that. We all got to take pride in not just about me or about Gunnar but as a team we’re tryin to build a tradition, trying to build a winning tradition all this is done for us and we have to come together we really do.”

As the afternoon wore on it was clear that the Blue Devils would not regain its momentum, and for the second straight week at home, CCSU lost, this time to the Pioneers 37-24. The last time the Blue Devils lost back-to-back games was in 2003.

“I think this team, it started out okay, we got a little bit of a bad break when Gunnar broke his hand, but for some unknown reason when we win two championships we can’t get over the hump and it starts and stops with me,” said Head Coach Jeff McInerney. “Obviously players have to hold on to the football, but when you get caught up about winning championships you forget the little things that you have to do to win games and unfortunately for this team we haven’t been doing that for the past two weeks and when you don’t do those things you won’t win.”

The Blue Devils took an early 14-0 lead in the first quarter with touchdowns coming from Chris Tolbert and Deven Baker. Tolbert came away with seven on the Blue Devils’ opening drive with a 15-yard run.

“It’s been apparent here lately that we get up on people and we can’t just run away with football games like we should,” said starting quarterback Gunnar Jespersen. “I don’t know if we’re just getting in this lull where we just play tight football games and that’s what we do here at Central, but that’s not how we win football games and we shouldn’t have had a sputter where we did.”

With Brian Fowler out of the lineup for Saturday’s game, freshman Darius Lee stepped in as his replacement, scoring in the second quarter off a Lomax forced fumble, the thirteenth for the Blue Devils this season.

In under a minute to play going into the half SHU struck again with a 9-yard run from Greg Moore. Moore found the end zone twice against the Blue Devils, putting his team within one score of CCSU.

The Blue Devils might have forged ahead early in the game, but the second half was an entirely different ball game. CCSU allowed SHU to gain momentum and outscore the home team 23-3, with 16 unanswered points.

“It’s been a challenge for this team we just couldn’t do 60 minutes we could do pieces then it’s almost like we get bored with it … That’s how you lose games, you get up 14-0 and we don’t do the little things right and again that starts and stops with me and that’s the only answer I have. I don’t want to make an excuse because that’s very disappointing, I do not like mediocrity and that’s what I saw,” said McInerney.

A 50-yard touchdown completion from Tim Little to Robert Dim seemed to be the final strike as SHU took the lead from CCSU for the first time all game. After Dim’s touchdown to make the game 28-24 the Blue Devils were never able to gain the advantage back.

Instead SHU found both the uprights and the end zone one more time before the game clock ran out.

Ball security was the main issue of the day, with CCSU’s Nick Bacarella, Raul Debenenditis and Tolbert fumbling the ball and Jespersen throwing two interceptions.

The Blue Devils may have lost the homecoming game, but the team can’t dwell on the two-time defeat. Next Saturday CCSU travels to UMass to take on the Minutemen in an out-of-conference game at 6 p.m.