NEW BRITAIN - Football film doesnât lie.
Thatâs the approach the Central Connecticut State football team is taking into todayâs meeting with Wagner (2-5, 1-1 Northeast Conference). On paper, the Seahawks appear to be one of the weaker teams in the conference, both also one whose talent has been evident against a number of quality opponents.
âTheyâve played a tough schedule,â Blue Devils head coach Pete Rossomando said. âTheyâve played Campbell. Theyâve played Monmouth. These are all full-scholarship schools. They went out and played at Montana State. Itâs very, very similar to the schedule we played last year. Theyâre a talented team and have a lot of really good players on both sides of the ball.â
Wagner snapped a five-game losing streak two weeks ago against St. Francis (Pa) after scoring the go-ahead touchdown on an 18-yard pass from DâErren Wilson to Chris Woodard with six seconds left. Before that, the Seahawks held a late lead against Monmouth before surrendering three touchdowns over the final 10 minutes of play.
Rossomando wants his team to continue to have a one-game focus, particularly with CCSU (4-4, 2-1) still in the mix for a potential repeat of the NEC title.
After last weekâs loss to Sacred Heart, a victory could keep the Blue Devils jumbled up at the top with Bryant and Duquesne depending on how those programâs games play out today. Bryant and Sacred Heart kick off an hour after CCSU, while the Dukes have a bye week.
âI thought our upperclassmen did a great job of getting these guys focused right away [this week],â Rossomando said. âWe had a great Monday and a really good Tuesday and Wednesday, had a good mental day Thursday. Iâm pleased with where we are as a team right now.â
That focus is going to be necessary on Saturday, especially on defense.
The Blue Devils gave up 21 second-half points last week and will be up against Ryan Fulse, the FCSâ leading rushing. Through seven games this season, the Seahawks senior tailback has run for 1,030 yards (147.1 yards per game) and six touchdowns on 181 carries (5.7 yards per carry).
On the season, CCSU is giving up an average of 142.3 yards on the ground.
â[Fulse is] not huge, but he plays big and heâs fast,â Rossomando said. âHe knows how to run. He hits the holes. Thereâs no trepidation. Thereâs no, âIâm going to give a little juke.â Itâs a missile coming out of there. Heâs lights out.â
Wagnerâs passing game, on the other hand, has been inconsistent at best.
The Seahawks employ a two-quarterback system with T.J. Linta, a graduate transfer from Brown University, and Luke Massei. Linta (770 passing yards, 7 touchdowns, 2 interceptions) is most likely to get the start today and is more of the drop-back passer of the two, while Massei (511 yards, 4 touchdowns, 6 interceptions) tends to operate better out of the spread.
Massei threw for 322 yards and three touchdowns against CCSU last season.
But just as important as it will be for the Blue Devils to fill in their gaps on defense to make Wagner throw the ball more will be the need for the players to stick to their respected assignments.
âOn defense we have to be a little more disciplined and play our own game and not helping other guys,â Rossomando said. âThatâs the good part and the bad part of our team. Our team, they really like each other and want to help each other, and in some cases that can hurt you. You canât make every play. Itâs football, itâs impossible. You have to do your job and trust the guys around you to do theirs.â
Offensively, CCSU is going up against a defense that has given up its fair share of points this season. Opponents havenât scored fewer than 22 in a game against Wagner, which happened to be against St. Francis. Overall, the Seahawks give up an average of 42.6 points per game.
But Rossomando knows those numbers are a bit inflated, considering the teams Wagner has faced through the first seven weeks. The upcoming forecast might not work in the Blue Devilsâ favor either, especially for a team that likes to try and stretch the field with a number of go routes down the sidelines.
âIt doesnât look like the weather is going to be anything good,â Rossomando said. âWe have to make sure we can run it, both inside and out. There isnât going to be a lot of option football because of the weather and I donât see a lot of downfield throws happening. So we have to make sure we control the football and take our shots when we do have the opportunity.â
Of course, as CCSU knows going into todayâs game, the tape doesnât lie.
âWe have to play well in all three phases,â Rossomando said. âWhen you lose two parts, like we did last week [on defense and special teams], youâre not going to have a shot in a lot of games.â
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or email@example.com