Chad Ward’s Late Touchdown Lifts Bryant Over Maine

Bryant University Press Release

Smithfield, RI – Sophomore Dalton Easton (Miami, Fla.) connected with junior Chad Ward (Delray Beach, Fla.) on a 14-yard touchdown pass with just 2:04 remaining to push the Bryant University football team to a dramatic and enthralling 13-10 victory over No. 20 Maine on Saturday afternoon at Bulldog Stadium.

On one of the biggest weekends of the year, the Bulldogs (3-0) pulled out one of the biggest wins in program history over the Black Bears (1-1) with a stellar defensive effort and enough big plays at the end. Bryant’s second win over a ranked opponent in Division I history came in front of a rowdy Homecoming and Reunion crowd of 3,291.

Bryant is 3-0 to start the season for the first time since 2010 and just the third time in program history. The Bulldogs’ only other victory over a ranked opponent came in 2010 when they defeated No. 25 Robert Morris at Bulldog Stadium.

Trailing 10-6 since the middle stages of the third quarter, Bryant got the ball back at its own 26 with 3:07 left in the game. The Bulldogs came out with the wildcat formation on first down and came up with the big play they needed. Junior Ricardo McCray (Middletown, R.I.) took the direct snap and raced to his right before shoveling the ball back to Easton who was lined up as a wide receiver. Easton caught the flip, heaved it down field and Ward was able to go up and make an incredible 41-yard catch. Easton then found McCray for 19 yards to the Maine 14 before hitting Ward again. The Florida native side-stepped his defender at the eight-yard line before diving into the endzone for the game-winning score.

As they did all game long, Bryant’s defense stood tall to close out the victory. Senior Sam Sammons (Cypress, Texas) picked up a sack on first down, junior Brandon Dagnesses (Miami, Fla.) made the stop on second down, a third down pass went incomplete and senior Jeff Covitz (Reading, Mass.) dragged down Maine quarterback Dan Collins on fourth down to secure the victory.

Saturday’s fourth installment of the Maine-Bryant series was a gritty defensive battle from start to finish. The teams chewed through the first-quarter clock with a pair of long drives. Bryant drove 61 yards in 13 plays but came up empty-handed as they missed on a 23-yard field goal attempt. Easton hooked up with McCray for a 26-yard gain to the Maine 8 but the Bulldogs were unable to get any further.

Maine took over on its own 20 and responded with an 11-play, 73-yard drive that resulted in three points. On third-and-17 from the 13, Collins connected with Damarr Aultman for a 41-yard gain to the Bryant 46. Nigel Jones’s 23-yard run two plays later put the Black Bears in the red zone but Dagnesses broke up a third-and-goal pass in the endzone to force the field goal.

The Bulldogs were able to quickly respond thanks to a big kick return from McCray. The shifty junior returned the ensuing kick 50 yards and a Maine penalty tacked on 15 more to put the Bulldogs to the Black Bears’ 34. A 17-yard completion to Taylor Barthelette (East Longmeadow, Mass.) helped the Bulldogs convert on third down and senior Tom Alberti (Marshfield, Mass.) capped the drive with a 27-yard field goal to tie the score at 3-3.

After both teams went three-and-out, Maine was able take the lead midway through the second quarter. Collins hit Aultman for 11 yards to start the drive and Nigel Beckford posted back-to-back runs of 27 and 11 to put the Black Bears to the Bryant 20. A pass interfence penalty on third down kept the drive alive for Collins to connect with fullback Carlton Charles for a five-yard touchdown.

Bryant was able to respond once again to cut the lead to four before the half came to a close. Easton hit Barthelette for 13 yards on third-and-11 and sophomore Keenan Thompson (Broward County, Fla.) for a three-yard gain to put Bryant into Maine territory. Three players later, Bryant faced a fourth-and-two and Easton hit senior Tyler McIntyre (Chico, Calif.) in the flat for a six-yard gain and a first down. It would take another fourth-down conversion in order to keep the drive alive. Easton hit McCray on a screen pass and he scampered 16 yards on a fourth-and-13 to keep the chains moving. Alberti capped the 17-play drive with a 30-yard field goal to make it 10-6 at the half.

The Bulldogs then caught a break on Maine’s first possession of the second half. The Black Bears drove all the way to the Bryant 4 on a 45-yard catch by Jeremy Salmon. Senior Maduka Nwanekezi (Milton, Mass.) and freshman Dillon Guthro (Newburyport, Mass.) followed with big tackles and an incompletion sent out the Maine field goal team. The Black Bears were unable to convert as the snap went high and the ball skipped away back to the 24.

Both teams traded possessions over the next quarter before the Bulldogs were able to punch it in late. The Bulldogs finished with 330 yards of total offense and allowed just 277 yards. Bryant had 17 first downs and possessed the ball for 32 minutes.

Easton finished the game 26-of-43 for 301 yards and a touchdown. The 26 completions are third most all-time and the 43 attempts are the fourth most. McCray had a stellar day, finishing with 220 all-purpose yards. He had 37 rush yards, 77 receiving yards and 106 return yards. Ward finished with eight catches for 123 yards and a touchdown.

Defensively, sophomore Marquise Watson (Hillside, N.J.) finished with a team-high nine tackles, while Covitz and Nwanekezi caused headaches all day on the ends. Covitz had four tackles and 2.5 tackles for a loss and Nwanekezi had four tackles, a sack and 2.5 tackles for a loss. Senior Sebastian Amedee (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) had seven tackles.

Bryant will make its longest trip in program history next weekend as it travels to Lynchburg, Va., to take on Liberty. Kickoff is schedule for 7 p.m.