Conference Title Hopes Dashed As Bryant Football Falls To Sacred Heart

Bryant University Press Release

SMITHFIELD, R.I. – The Bryant University football team turned the ball over a season-high six times in a 28-19 loss to Sacred Heart on Saturday afternoon at Bulldog Stadium.

For the second-straight year the Pioneers (5-5, 2-3 NEC) dashed the Bulldogs’ (5-5, 3-2) championship hopes. The loss is Bryant’s third-straight to Sacred Heart and knocks them out of contention for its first league title.

Bryant jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first half but the Pioneers responded with 21-straight points and put the game away with a huge 12-play, 81-yard scoring drive midway through the fourth quarter. Sacred Heart intercepted four passes in the first half and completed its big defensive day with a fumble recovery with just over two minutes left to seal the win.

The Bulldogs dominated the first quarter on Saturday but were only able to put 10 points on the board. Bryant’s second possession started at the SHU 47 but Tim Johnson made a diving interception on the first play of the drive to end the threat.

Bryant’s defense got another stop and Jamie Ross’s punt went just 25 yards to give the Bulldogs the ball at the SHU 42. Senior Ricardo McCray (Middletown, R.I.) took the ball to the 22 with a 23-yard run but back-to-back incomplete passes brought on Ricky Perez (Miami, Fla.) and the junior drilled a 37-yard field goal to give the Bulldogs a 3-0 lead.

The Black and Gold had the ball back at the SHU 42 three plays later as the defense once again forced a three-and-out. McCray carried the ball three times to put the ball inside the 10-yard line and junior Dalton Easton (Miami, Fla.) completed the drive with a seven-yard scoring strike to senior Ryan Barrett (Holliston, Mass.).

Bryant had another chance late in the first quarter as it took over at the SHU 39. The Pioneers, however, picked off Easton’s pass on the first play of the drive to end the threat.

Sacred Heart then flipped the script in the second quarter with the wind at its back. The Pioneers stopped the Bulldogs at the SHU 48 and then found the endzone in just three plays. Nate Chavious opened the drive with a 32-yard run, RJ Noel ran for six and Chavious capped the drive with a 15-yard scoring run.

After the Pioneers stopped on fourth down at the SHU 34, they drove 66 yards in nine plays to take the lead for good. Three-straight runs from Ose Imeokparia opened the drive and a 31-yard completion to Tyler Dube put the ball on the Bryant 12. Two plays later, Noel sneaked into the endzone to make it 14-10.

The Bulldogs had a chance to retake the lead but once again found nothing. Completions of 12 and 22 to Taylor Barthelette (East Longmeadow, Mass.) put the ball to the SHU 25 but an illegal motion penalty on Barthelette negated a scoring run from McCray. Two plays later, Mustapha Noibi intercepted a pass in the endzone.

In the second half, the two teams traded possessions until the Pioneers were able to score with 3:30 left in the third quarter. Starting at the Bryant 47, Noel connected with Dube for 12 yards on third down and then found Imeokparia streaking down the sideline for a 30-yard touchdown to make it 21-10.

Bryant made it a game with two quick scores at the beginning of the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs started at their own 12 and drove 64 yards in 11 plays to setup a Perez field goal. A roughing the passer and pass interference extended the drive early and Perez’s 41-yard field goal made it 21-13 with 14:48 left in the game.

The Bulldogs’ defense forced a quick three-and-out to get the ball back at the SHU 47. McCray opened the drive with a 24-yard run and Barrett’s 17-yard grab pushed the ball to the 6. Two plays later, Easton scrambled into the corner of the endzone to make it 21-19. The Bulldogs went for two to tie the game but Moses Webb made a great defensive play to knock the ball away from McCray to keep the Pioneers on top.

Sacred Heart followed the Bryant score with a game-clinching 12-play drive. The Pioneers converted three times on third down and Noel followed a 26-yard run with a four-yard scoring run to make it 28-19.

Bryant posted 454 yards of total offense, 25 first downs and held the ball for over 32 minutes. McCray carried the ball a career-high 34 times for a season-high 182 yards. He became the first Bulldog since Jordan Brown in 2011 to rush for over 1,000 yards in a single season. McCray’s 1,180 rushing yards are the eighth-most in a single season in Bryant history.

Easton finished 21-of-39 for 266 yards, a touchdown and four interceptions. He became Bryant’s single-season passing leader with 2,467 yards and is one touchdown pass shy of tying the single season program record.

Defensively, Marquise Watson (Hillside, N.J.) finished with a game-high 11 tackles, a sack and forced fumble.

The Bulldogs will wrap up their season next Saturday when they take on Robert Morris in Moon Township, Pa. Kickoff is scheduled for 12:00 p.m.