Bryant Football Holds Off Furious Saint Francis Comeback For Second Straight Win

Bryant University Press Release

SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Senior Jose Depadua (Frederick, Md.) returned the opening kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown and junior Brandon Owens (Salem, Mass.) returned a blocked punt for a score as the Bryant University football team held on to defeat Saint Francis U. on Saturday afternoon at Bulldog Stadium.

The Bulldogs (4-3, 2-1 NEC) built a 26-3 lead in the second half but needed a crucial pass breakup from junior Charles Keenan (Tyngsborough, Mass.) on a two-point conversion attempt to hold off the Red Flash (3-3, 1-1).

Depadua brought the crowd of 5,908 to their feet with his electric return but the several thousand left at the end of the game had to hold their breath as SFU went for a game-tying two-point conversion with 1:31 left. Khairi Dickson’s second TD run of the second half cut Bryant’s lead to 26-24. SFU QB Zack Drayer then threw to back corner of the endzone for William Martin. The Red Flash receiver momentarily had control but Keenan delivered a hard hit, knocking the ball free and keeping the Bulldogs ahead by two.

It took just 13 seconds for the Bulldogs to grab the lead on Saturday thanks to Depadua. The veteran fielded the opening kick at his own 7, took off towards the right sideline and then exploded down field. The kick return score was the second career return TD for Depadua. He returned a kick 100 yards against Sacred Heart in 2013.

SFU answered by driving the ball all the way to the Bryant 2 but the Bulldog defense stood tall. The Bulldogs stopped Dickson on first and second down before junior Patrick Kenney (Camarillo, Calif.) sacked Drayer for a 13-yard loss. The Red Flash settled for three points as Lance Geesey knocked down a 32-yard field goal attempt.

Bryant’s first offensive possession was nearly as quick as Depadua’s run back as the Bulldogs needed just five plays and 1:55 to score again. Junior Dalton Easton (Miami, Fla.) connected with senior Chad Ward (Delray Beach, Fla.) for a 47-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage and sophomore Matt Sewall (Portsmouth, R.I.) picked up 11 yards on 3rd-and-8 to move the ball inside the SFU 10. On the next play, senior Ricardo McCray (Middletown, R.I.) made a man miss in the backfield and sprinted to the corner of the endzone for the touchdown.

The Bulldogs were able to add to their lead at the beginning of the second quarter thanks to a great play from special teams. After an 11-play drive stalled at the SFU 47, senior Dom Kozlowski (Westford, Mass.) delivered a perfect punt that was downed at the SFU 1. The Red Flash gained two yards on first down but senior Abri Tate (Fort Mill, S.C.) broke into the backfield on second down and tackled Marcus Bagley in the endzone for a safety to make it 16-3.

Bryant turned the ball over two plays later but the defense stood tall once again. After a dropped pass by Daniel Adams on 2nd-and-2 from the Bryant 29 turned into a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty after he threw the ball in frustration, freshman Joe Mendez (Manalapan, N.J.) picked up his first career sack to force a punt.

The Black and Gold then drove 75 yards in 10 plays but came up empty-handed. They drive featured two fake special teams plays. On 4th-and-6 from the Bryant 22, Marquise Watson (Hillside, N.J.) called for the fake punt, broke two tackles and rumbled 48 yards for a first down. A 14-yard run by McCray made it 1st-and-goal from the 5 but a holding penalty put the Bulldogs behind the sticks. Facing fourth down form the 17, Bryant brought out the field goal unit but never kicked it. Holder Christopher Schultz (Bethesda, Md.) fielded the snap and threw to John Lavin (Falmouth, Mass.) but the Bryant tight end was tripped up shy of the endzone.

Bryant then tacked on a late field goal to take a 19-3 lead into the half. Ward and Sewall both caught two passes on the drive before Ricky Perez (Miami, Fla.) drilled home a 32-yard field goal with 1:23 left in the half.

The special teams unit provided another spark to open the second half. The Bulldogs forced a quick three-and-out and then brought pressure on the ensuing punt. Freshman DJ Davis (Salem, Va.) practically blocked the ball before it was even punted and Owens was in the right spot to scoop up the loose ball and run it in from 16 yards out.

Bryant, however, would not score the rest of the way as SFU tightened up its effort. The Red Flash held the Bulldogs to just 56 yards of offense in the second half as they began to make their comeback. SFU inched closer with a score as the third quarter clock ran out. Starting at their own 27, the Red Flash drove 73 yards in just six plays. Running out of the wildcat formation, Dickson picked up gains of 14 and 41 to put the ball inside the Bryant 15. He then capped the drive with a 12-yard TD run.

Saint Francis then used a special teams play of its own to gain a short field in the fourth quarter. Robert Miller blocked a Bryant punt to give the Red Flash the ball at the Bryant 38. Drayer then completed three-straight passes to put the ball inside the 15 and finished the drive with a 13-yard TD pass to Adams. Drayer then completed a pass to Martin to convert the ensuing two-point conversion and make it a one score game with 6:39 left.

The Red Flash then forced a three-and-out and drove down the field to bring the game within two. The big play on the drive came on 3rd-and-6 from the SFU 43 as Dickson caught a screen pass and broke down the far sideline for a 42-yard gain. Two plays later, Dickson raced into the endzone from five yards out to set up the dramatic finish.

Saint Francis out-gained Bryant 374-282 on the day, finished with more first downs and controlled the ball for over 32 minutes. The nation’s leading rusher a year ago, Dickson finished with 130 yards and two scores on 20 carries. Drayer finished 22-of-37 for 259 yards and a score.

McCray, the leading rusher in the NEC, finished with 74 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Easton, the league’s leading passer, completed just 14-of-33 passes for 157 yards and didn’t throw a touchdown. It is just the third time in his career that he has not thrown for a TD. Ward led the receivers with four catches for 89 yards and Sewall finished with four catches for 28 yards.

Defensively, Watson posted nine tackles to lead the team for the second-straight week. Tate added a career-high seven tackles and the Bulldogs sacked Drayer four times.

Bryant will hit the road next weekend as they wrap up non-conference play with a short trip up Route 146 to take on Holy Cross. The Halloween kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 p.m.