NEW BRITAIN - Pete Rossomando is hoping for a better Sunday morning than the one last week.
The Central Connecticut State head football coach woke up at 6 a.m. to watch the Blue Devils’ film from the 41-24 loss to Columbia. To say it wasn’t good is putting it lightly.
“It was torture,” Rossomando said. “There weren’t a lot of bounces that went our way.”
Mistakes, particularly self-inflicted ones, hindered CCSU last week and led to an eight-minute stretch to start the second half that saw the team go from down three to 13. Now, the Blue Devils (1-2) will try to get back on track today against Fordham (0-3) on the road.
It will be the first of two consecutive games against Patriot League opponents before CCSU gets into its NEC schedule. Last season, the Rams won on a late pick-six. The Blue Devils are expecting another challenge this time around. The record of Fordham’s first three opponents is 6-3.
“They’ve played three really good teams,” Rossomando said. “Charlotte’s good. They’re an FBS team. Richmond is a really good team and I know Stony Brook is a really good, physical defensive team.”
Unlike the Blue Devils’ season opener against Ball State, another FBS school, the Rams played Charlotte close, trailing 13-10 midway through the third before a pair of turnovers effectively put the game out of reach. Richmond and Stony Brook were a little more lopsided from the start.
But that has to do more with Fordham’s offense, which is breaking in a new quarterback in Luke Medlock and is replacing tailback Chase Edmonds, one of the top running backs from a year ago in the FCS. The Rams’ defense has kept them competitive. Opponents have 45 points off turnovers against Fordham this season.
“Defensively, they’re really athletic,” Rossomando said. “They got guys who can really run. They have a lot of the same guys we played last year. We struggled to throw the ball and catch it last year [against them]. We probably had 10 drops in that game.”
It should be an interesting test for the Blue Devils’ offense, which comes in averaging 28.3 points per game, although those numbers are inflated by the 55-0 win over Division II Lincoln (PA) in Week 2. CCSU also has yet to have a 100-yard rusher in a game this season, which is far from the balance Rossomando likes to have.
Quarterback Jacob Dolegala has 588 passing yards through the first three games. The 10 players who have had run the ball for the Blue Devils, meanwhile, have a combined 465 yards.
And Fordham had shown an ability to make plays in its back seven. Its top three tacklers are linebackers Glenn Cunningham (28 total tackles) and Noah Fitzgerald (23) and defensive back Antonio Jackson (25). The Rams also have sacked the quarterback eight times.
Still, Rossomando knows Fordham’s offense can pose a problem when it’s in rhythm, 7.7 points per game or not.
“They rely on the quick passing game,” the head coach said. “They have a pair of slot receivers, the one killed us last year, [Corey Caddle] and Austin Longi, who was hurt last year and a Connecticut kid. Those two guys, they make up for a lot of big plays on their offense and, obviously, we’ve had a tough time covering the pass.”
Longi is by far the Rams’ top playmaker and the favorite target of Medlock. The receiver has 10 catches for 210 yards and a touchdown this season. The next closest in terms of yards is Isaiah Searight, with 88. Caddle has 87.
That’s why the Blue Devils know it will be important to get to Medlock and make him as uncomfortable as possible. The senior is completing just 47.4 percent of his passes for 575 yards and has six interceptions to just the one touchdown to Longi.
“They have good skill players,” Rossomando said. “They always have and they always will. The score doesn’t always show it. When you turn the ball over like they have, holding people to limited amount of points, it can be tough.”
It also means CCSU knows it’ll have to play a cleaner game and take advantage of its opportunities when presented. A 1-3 start, after all, is far from ideal.
“Last week, I think there were times, offensively, we out-coached ourselves,” Rossomando said. “We tried to scheme too much and not let our players make plays. As coaches, you’re trying to do that because the defensive scheme you’re playing against is really good. Hindsight being 20-20, we have to do what we do well no matter what, whatever defense they play and let’s roll. I think that’ll be a big difference this week.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or email@example.com