Bryant Falls To Central Connecticut In NEC Opener
Bryant University Press Release
NEW BRITAIN, Conn. – Devon Lofton’s four-yard touchdown run with 2:15 left in the game propelled Central Connecticut to a wild 35-33 victory over the Bryant University football team on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon at Arute Field.
Playing in front of a homecoming crowd of 4,379, the Blue Devils (2-4, 1-1 NEC) scored 28 points and put up 371 yards of total offense in the second half alone to hand the Bulldogs (2-3, 0-1) their third-straight loss. It was CCSU’s first win over the Black and Gold since 2011.
Trailing, 20-7, in the third quarter, the Blue Devils would go on to score 28 points over the final 21 minutes on Saturday. Dan Hebert capped a six-play, 76-yard drive with a five-yard TD reception and then hauled in a 31-yard TD pass four minutes later to give CCSU its first lead of the game, 21-20, with 2:19 left in the third quarter.
Bryant and Central then traded blows over the final 10 minutes. Down by one point with 9:35 to go, the Bulldogs took over at their own 20. Facing a 4th-and-5, junior Patrick Kenney (Camarillo, Calif.)raced 26 yards on a fake punt to move the ball over midfield. Two plays later, senior Ricardo McCray(Middletown, R.I.) exploded down the far sideline for a 49-yard touchdown run and a 26-21 Bryant lead. The Black and Gold would go for two but the Blue Devils were able to make the stop.
It didn’t take the Blue Devils very long to respond as they retook the lead just three plays later. On 3rd-and-4 from the CCSU 16, Central QB Tavion Pauldo was just able to get off a screen pass to RB Cameron Nash. The speedster did the rest, eluding two tacklers before racing down the field for an 84-yard touchdown.
As if it was a prize fight, the Black and Gold punched right back on their next drive to retake the lead. A personal foul pushed the ball across midfield before McCray struck again. The Rhode Island native sprinted left, broke a tackle and then scurried down the far sideline for a 45-yard touchdown run, giving Bryant a 33-29 lead with 4:47 left in the game.
Central Connecticut had the last lick, however, driving 73 yards in just seven plays to grab the late lead. Facing 1st-and-20 following a holding penalty, Nash picked up 10 yards and Pauldo connected with TE KJ Smith for 24 yards to put the ball in Bryant territory. A 25-yard completion to Joey Fields put the ball inside the 10 and Lofton capped the drive with his four-yard plunge.
Bryant had one final possession but turned the ball over on downs at its own 45.
The Bulldogs opened up a 13-7 at the half and scored on their first possession of the second half to make it a 15-point game. Late in the first quarter, the Black and Gold finally put a solid drive together, moving the ball inside the CCSU 5 on a 32-yard completion from junior Dalton Easton (Miami, Fla.) to senior Chad Ward (Delray Beach, Fla.). Senior Paul Canevari (Warwick, N.Y.) took the ball inside the 1 but a false start penalty pushed the Bulldogs back and the Central defense buckled down, forcing the Bulldogs to settle for a 22-yard field goal.
Bryant extended its lead two possessions later with a seven-play, 89-yard drive. McCray churned out the yards on the drive, racking up gains of 22, 12 and 10 to put Bryant inside the 5. Easton then found sophomore Hunter Taute (Norfolk, Mass.) in the endzone for a three-yard touchdown, the first of Taute’s career.
Central answered with a 10-play, 65-yard drive to make it 13-7. A personal foul penalty kick-started the drive for CCSU and Pauldo capped it with a one-yard keeper.
The Black and Gold then used the final 4:08 of the first half to pick up three more points. Bryant converted twice on fourth down during the drive with McCray picking up four yards on 4th-and-3 and senior John Lavin (Falmouth, Mass.) making an eight-yard reception on 4th-and-7. Junior Ricky Perez (Miami, Fla.) capped the 16-play drive with a career-long 46-yard field goal.
On the afternoon, both Bryant and Central Connecticut put up season-highs in total yards. The Bulldogs amassed 478 yards while CCSU put up 553 yards. McCray finished the game with 174 yards and two touchdowns on just 19 carries. He became just the sixth player in Bryant program history to rush for over 2,000 career yards. Canevari finished with 40 yards on 13 carries and Easton completed 20-of-39 for 228 yards and two scores.
Nash finished with 90 rushing yards, 104 receiving yards and 296 all-purpose yards on the day. Pauldo completed 15-of-21 for 245 yards and two scores and also rushed for 38 yards and a touchdown.
Kenney led the Bryant defense with a career-high 12 tackles and Brandon Dagnesses (Miami, Fla.) picked up his second interception of the year.
The Bulldogs return home for the first time in over a month next Saturday when they welcome Duquesne to Bulldog Stadium on Homecoming and Reunion Weekend. The game will kickoff at 12:00 p.m. and will be streamed nationally on ESPN3.