It's a new week and a fresh slate for Central Connecticut State University football (1-3) as the Blue Devils host Columbia (2-1) Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. in search of getting back in the win column.
Back-to-back blowout losses loom over the Blue Devils the last two weeks, but with the turn of October and conference opponents on horizon the Blue Devils are eager to enter this week with a fresh mind and body after taking a few days off last week during their bye week.
CCSU head coach Ryan McCarthy said the team is ready for whatever is thrown at him, giving credit to the Lions' head coach Al Bagnoli, a former CCSU football player who graduated in 1975.
"They take on the personality of their head coach Al Bagnoli, who I think is the winningest coach in Ivy League history. ... He won a ton of games at Penn and has done well at Columbia." said McCarthy. Bagnoli is a nine-time Ivy League champion with a head coaching record of 258-128. He's been at Columbia since 2015 and has led the team to an over-.500 season once.
"Columbia has been a tough job for some time and he's turned the thing around," McCarthy said.
When it comes to what is expected by the Lions, McCarthy anticipates a physical battle. The Blue Devils were bullied by Miami the last time out, but the step down from FBS to FCS level football may have the Blue Devils battle-tested this week.
"They're very physical on both sides of the ball. I think defensively they've always been physical under Paul Ferraro, their defensive coordinator. I think what I'm seeing now is that their calling card is their defense and I think they're trying to establish that same mentality on offense.
On offense, the same mentality will carry over into what McCarthy believes will be a smash-mouth running offense.
"I think they want to run the ball, play physical football and try to keep the defense off the field as much as they can. When the defense is on the field, they play very hard. Very disciplined, very hard. That's what they've always been."
The rushing attack will be led by Ryan Young and Dante Miller, both of whom have received the bulk of the touches through the first three games. Miller leads with 227 yards on 35 carries and Young has 207 yards on 46 carries. Together they have no scores as Ty Lenhard has been the TD vulture, scoring three times with 18 yards total. The passing game belongs to Joe Green, who has 451 yards passing with two scores and no interceptions.
Defensively the Lions have picked off four passes, broken up 13 passes and had five quarterback hurries this season. The Lions have also racked up seven sacks for a loss of 50 yards.
In average points allowed, the Lions have allowed 20.3 points per game, the third worst in the Ivy League. They also rank third in yards allowed (1,018) and second in average yards per play (5.0).
But, as a team that can bruise and bang bodies like McCarthy says, the numbers may not mean a thing when Columbia shows up to New Britain for kick off. It'll be a battle where the last man standing wins, and McCarthy knows it.
"It's going to the team that plays the longest, and the tougher team usually wins. That's what it's going to be. This is going to be a street fight," said McCarthy.
Homecoming, traditionally a celebration of the seniors on the team, will take place Saturday. Seniors on the team include Kelvin Apari, TyShaun James, Tre Jones, Everett Wormley, Rani Abdulaziz, Nas Smith, Kendall Coles, J’Von Brown, JJ Colimon, Trevon Lincoln and Michael Stuhldreer.