By Brittany Burke
Saturday’s home football home opener for the Central Connecticut State University Blue Devils told multiple stories as CCSU prevailed over the Southern Connecticut State University Owls, 35-21.
The kick off game for the 2011-12 season, dedicated to the belated Rich Royster and Brittany Mariani, told the story of the Division I Northeast Conference co-champion team looking to outplay a lesser Division II team. The game also shed the light on a young CCSU quarterback, Jake White who was given a chance to showcase his talent due to starter, Gunnar Jespersen being taken out due to an undisclosed injury.
While CCSU was looking for a win the SCSU Owls played to upset the better team and end the second-longest home winning streak in the country. Most importantly the game on Sept. 3 told the tale of two halves.
The first two periods were dominated by the Blue Devils and by half time the home team was on top 28-0, but once play resumed it was the Owls that took over. CCSU was held to a dismal one first down while SCSU managed a 21 point comeback.
“We have a lot of young people on this team so the second half is always going to be harder than the first especially when we’re up and everyone gets laxed and it’s hard to come out and play a whole other half,” said Matthew Tyrell. “I mean our coaches stay on top of us and say the second half is 0-0 so they want us to pretend it’s 0-0 come out and play hard again, but since we have a new team a lot of young people and first game of the season but we’ll get the hang of it.”
With the time clock running under three minutes and SCSU in possession of the ball, Owl quarterback Kevin Lynch found tight end Jerome Cunningham in the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown completion. The Owls were then forced to decide whether or not to go for the two-point conversion, which the team did and made.
“They’re a good football team I knew that going in,” said head coach Jeff McInerney. “I watched them on tape … had 16 returning seniors, the quarterback could play in this league. I thought the two receivers could play in this league. I thought the two tight ends could play in this league. They’re well coached, they play hard, they’re a good football team and I knew that going in that they were not to be slight eyed and nothing shocked me out there.”
One touchdown separated CCSU from SCSU, but an onside kick recovered by Tyrell put the Blue Devils ahead by 14 with 2:25 left in the game. Tyrell, a junior wide receiver, finished second in the day in receiving behind Deven Baker. Tyrell had one touchdown and 42-yards, just shy of Baker’s 62-yards for two touchdowns.
“I was supposed to be up blocking but the ball went by and I saw the opportunity to make a play but a defender slapped the ball in bound so I took it…actually I thought the play was brought back but I just kept running and saw that it was a touchdown and I took it,” said Tyrell.
The 35-yard return put an end to the game, but the Blue Devils sat back in second half and allowed SCSU to take advantage and almost the lead.
Despite being outplayed in the second, the CCSU prevailed in the first half. Jespersen found Baker late in the first period for seven points, before being taken out in the second for an injury sustained during a 6-yard rush attempt, which he was known for last season.
With Jespersen out, White took to the field finding Baker in his first pass attempt, putting CCSU up 14. A defensive touchdown made by Gene Johnson and another completion from White to Tyrell gave the Blue Devils its comfortable lead heading in to half time.
“I saw [Jespersen] coming off and I was just like it’s my time now I guess,” said White.
The Blue Devils out ran the Owls, but had 109-yards in penalties and two interceptions, while also causing to picks of its own. CCSU left the game winners of the in-state matchup, but next week will be a true test of what the team is made of.
CCSU leaves Arute for a two week road stint beginning at James Madison University in Virginia before beginning conference play at Wagner.