NEW BRITAIN - In what has been a tough three weeks for the Central Connecticut football team, head coach Pete Rossomando perhaps put it best following Saturday’s game against Division II Walsh University.
“It feels like the monkey is off our back a little bit,” Rossomando said.
It didn’t hurt the Blue Devils got a lift from a surprising area - their run game.
Cameron Nash became the first 100-yard rusher for CCSU in 14 games as the Blue Devils beat the Cavaliers 57-6 for their first win of the season.
Nash accounted for 109 of the Blue Devils’ 254 rushing yards on 14 carries and scored two of the team’s six rushing touchdowns, the first of which gave the Blue Devils their first and only needed lead of the day towards the end of the first quarter. Drew Jean-Guillaume, the No. 2 running back, added 61 yards and two scores of his own.
It was the most points for CCSU (1-3) since the 62 it scored in a win over St. Francis University back in 2006.
“The O-line was getting surge and moving people and anytime they do that, myself and the other backs can succeed,” Nash said. “I think it was good those guys got going. They got some momentum heading into conference play and got more confidence under their hats. I think this’ll be a new trend going forward, week to week.”
Walsh took an early 3-0 lead on Kasey Tingler’s 32-yard field goal. But CCSU scored five touchdowns before the Cavaliers could put any more points on the scoreboard on another Tingler field goal as the second-quarter clock expired.
Just 11 seconds after Nash crossed the goal line from four yards out, linebacker Seth Manzanares intercepted a Nick Grassman pass and returned it 30 yards for the touchdown and just like that, the Blue Devils started rolling.
Jean-Guillaume scored on a 1-yard run with 7:52 left in the first half, quarterback Jacob Dolegala connected with Courtney Rush for a 62-yard touchdown less than two minutes later before Dolegala closed out CCSU’s first half with a 1-yard run himself, set up by a 46-yard punt return from senior safety Najae Brown.
At halftime, the Blue Devils held a 35-6 lead.
Dolegala finished the afternoon completing 7 of his 14 passes for 143 yards, the one touchdown and no interceptions and moved to fourth on the school’s all-time passing list. Of CCSU’s 413 yards of total offense, 233 came in the first half.
“We ran the ball fairly effectively today,” Rossomando said. “To stay on schedule [on offense], which we hadn’t done in the past, today we were on schedule. Even a bad run was four or five yards. I feel good about where we are. Now we just have to crank it up a notch against good competition.”
But the Blue Devils were hardly done.
Nash and Jean-Guillaume each scored in the third quarter to extend the lead. Nash’s a 13-yard run at the 5:43 mark and Jean-Guillaume’s as the clock expired. Danely Exilhome became the fourth CCSU player to score a rushing touchdown in the game on his 22-yard run with 24 second left in the fourth.
Walsh, meanwhile, was struggling to find an answer to a Blue Devils’ defense that allowed 239 yards of total offense, 59 of which came through the air. Over the course of the second half, the Cavaliers netted just 84 yards and the CCSU defense finished the day with two interceptions and a forced fumble.
“We just wanted it,” said Brown, who led the team with seven tackles. “Today we had to prove we were a good defense. In the previous weeks we didn’t do too well so this week we had to come out, play hard and give the offense back the ball.”
Now, the Blue Devils hope to carry this win over to next Saturday when they open up NEC-play against Sacred Heart.
“We learned that we have to dominate and win every snap and put teams away,” Nash said. “Those three games [to start the season] they definitely got us ready for this game and heading into conference play. We’ll be ready.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @DavidGlovach