NEW BRITAIN - Ryan Fulse came into Saturdayâ€™s game as the FCSâ€™ leading rusher, but Aaron Dawson did everything he could to steal the show.
On a day when the wind and the rain pelted Arute Field, Dawson set one school record and tied another.
Central Connecticut Stateâ€™s sophomore tailback ran for a single-game school- and NEC-best 361 yards and five touchdowns, including four in the second half of 40 yards or more, as the Blue Devils beat Wagner 49-24 for an important bounce-back win.
â€śMy O-line was pushing them back and I just found the seams and hit the gap and kept my legs moving,â€ť Dawson said. â€śI honestly didnâ€™t think I was in the [300s]. I was just thinking about trying to get yards, score and help out my team anyway I could.â€ť
Most of Dawsonâ€™s yardage came after halftime.
Over the final two quarters, he ran for 308 yards, which included a touchdown run of 45 in the third to give CCSU the lead for good at 28-24 as well as ones of 57, 60 and 55 in the fourth. The runs of 57 and 60 came on back-to-back plays for the offense.
â€śIt always starts with the guys up front,â€ť Blue Devils head coach Pete Rossomando said. â€śThe O-line and the tight ends, those guys played their tails off. The receivers blocked unselfishly today. It obviously wasnâ€™t the day to throw the ball. But [Dawson] ran downhill and heâ€™s done what we asked him to do. Heâ€™s been coming and that was a huge game.â€ť
Fulse, meanwhile, didnâ€™t find the end zone, despite running for 179 yards on a career-high 43 carries.
But before Dawson and the offensive line took over the game at the 11:32 mark of the third quarter, CCSU (5-4, 3-1) found itself in a back-and-forth battle.
The Seahawks (2-6, 1-2) jumped out to an early 14-0 lead after Charbel Dabire returned a blocked punt for a touchdown and Titus Leo came up with a pick six on a Jacob Dolegala pass on the Blue Devilsâ€™ next possession.
Dolegala threw just 15 passes for CCSU and completed six of them for 74 yards and a touchdown.
The Blue Devils, however, scored 21 of the next 24 points. Safety DJ Exilhomme recovered a fumble in the end zone with 5:43 remaining on the first-quarter clock. Dolegala then connected with Jose Garcia for a 39-yard score a little less than three minutes later, while Dawsonâ€™s first touchdown - a 23-yard run - in the second quarter put the Blue Devils up 21-17.
The Seahawks only points during that stretch came on a 36-yard kick form Eric Silvester. All three of the Blue Devilsâ€™ touchdowns came off Wagner turnovers.
While the weather played a factor, CCSUâ€™s defense specialized in taking the ball away on Saturday. The unit finished with eight forced fumbles, five in the first half, recovered four and had two sacks. Kevin Loschiavo also intercepted a Luke Messei pass for the Blue Devils.
Perhaps CCSUâ€™s most important fumble, outside of Exilhommeâ€™s touchdown, was forcing Fulse to give up the ball on the Blue Devilsâ€™ 1-yard line right before halftime to preserve the 21-17 lead.
â€śWith this weather, this rain, we knew they werenâ€™t going to do too much and that it was going to be a simple game,â€ť said linebacker Tre Jones, who finished the day with a sack and two forced fumbles. â€śIt was basically backyard football. It was us flying around and coach giving us plays to allow us to have fun.â€ť
The win should be an important momentum builder for CCSU, which remains in the running for the NEC title. The Blue Devils have two more conference opponents left on the schedule in St. Francis (Pa) and Duquesne following their upcoming bye week.
â€śEach week from now is important,â€ť Dawson said. â€śWeâ€™re going to rest up during the bye week and we have to keep on winning. Weâ€™re going to keep practicing hard and weâ€™re not giving up down or backing down. We just have to keep pushing hard and play up to our potential.â€ť
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or email@example.com