CCSU defense leads struggling offense into Southeastern Louisiana searching for first win

Published on Friday, 16 September 2022 13:51
Written by Cameron Beall


The Central Connecticut State Blue Devils and the Southeastern Louisiana Lions have faced just once, and it took place almost exactly a year ago on Sept. 18 in New Britain when the Lions handily defeated the Devils 56-10.

In last season’s meeting, the Blue Devils allowed the Lions to pass for 477 yards and four touchdowns as well as four touchdowns on the ground.

Defense hasn’t been an issue for Central through the first two weeks of the 2022 season. That side of the ball has racked up five takeaways to this point – four fumble recoveries and one interception – while also holding Sacred Heart to just 14 points in their lone conference game of the season. 

The opportunistic nature of the CCSU defense has not transferred to their offensive counterparts, however. It’s been slow going for the offense in the red zone so far this season. Senior running back Nas Smith said the team is aware is aware of the opportunities they’ve squandered, and it’s as simple as execution when the defense allows them into that part of the field.

“The biggest thing is that we need to execute and take advantage of the opportunities the defense gives us,” Smith said. “We didn’t execute when we got done into the red zone. We had a lot of opportunities; we just didn’t execute… We just really need to lock in and score the touchdown.”

Through the first two weeks, Southeastern Louisiana has been outscored by an average of 33-8 thanks to losses at University of Louisiana Lafayette and Florida Atlantic University.

In their last game at FAU, the Lions went with two quarterbacks similar to what CCSU saw against Sacred Heart. Redshirt freshman Eli Sawyer was 12-for-20 passing for 116 yards and a touchdown. Senior Cephus Johnson III completed 5-of-13 passes for 86 yards. 

In Week 1, Johnson III was the primary signal caller and was also feature heavily in the run game. He went 22-for-34 with 149 yards passing, while also racking up 48 yards on the ground on 10 attempts.

Despite their record, Smith explained that nobody is hanging their head about where the team is at. Ultimately, they knew September would be tough and playing such strong teams out of the gate like UConn and Sacred Heart could ultimately serve them well as the season progresses.

“We knew when the schedule came out that our games in September were going to be very tough and that either game was going to be a dog fight,” said Smith. “None of us are down that we’re 0-2. We know where we could be, and I feel like we’re going to peak at the right time.”

The Blue Devils will need to start putting the pieces together and string together wins before the NEC title gets too far out of reach.

CSSU at Southeastern Louisiana

When: Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET

Where: Strawberry Stadium (Hammond, LA)

Records: CCSU 0-2 (0-1 NEC), SLU 0-2 (0-0 SLC)

Last Meeting: SLU 56, CCSU 10 (9/18/2021)

The Breakdown

Both teams have already faced their FBS opponents for the season in UConn and FAU, which can skew the numbers especially early in the season. Both teams have also struggled to gain any offensive momentum against FCS competition. CCSU’s defense should be able to create enough opportunities for their offense, eventually find a rhythm through Nas Smith and the running backs. Central showed bursts against Sacred Heart in the second half but ultimately failed to get things done when it mattered. The Blue Devils have played well in every area outside of their red zone offense. They’ve come so close to breaking through so many times it’s tough to imagine this can keep happening to them. 

Cameron Beall’s Prediction

CCSU 20, SLU 16

Posted in Newington Town Crier, CCSU on Friday, 16 September 2022 13:51. Updated: Friday, 16 September 2022 13:53.