BRIDGEWATER, Mass. – Junior running back Alex McLaughlin (Littleton, Mass.) rushed for a career high 207 yards and a touchdown to lead the Bridgewater State University football team to a 27-19 victory over Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) rival UMass Dartmouth on Friday night at Swenson Field.
The Bears improve to 4-2 with their fourth straight win and remain unbeaten in MASCAC play with a perfect 4-0 conference mark. The Corsairs fall to 3-3 overall and 2-2 in the MASCAC standings. Bridgewater now leads the all-time series, 17-12, as the two teams have played every season since 1988.
McLaughlin carried the ball 32 times on the evening. His one-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter staked the Bears to a 20-13 halftime lead. McLaughlin has hit the century mark in rushing yards in each of the last four games.
Bridgewater jumped out to a 6-0 lead on the opening possession of the game thanks in large part to a 62-yard kickoff return by Malik Garrett (Dorchester, Mass.). Six plays later, Garrett hauled in an eight-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Danny Higgins (Manahawkin, N.J). The point after try was blocked.
Later in the quarter, Higgins was intercepted by UMD senior cornerback Scott Tupper (Holden, Mass.) at the BSU 26-yard line. Tupper returned the ball down to the one, and one play later sophomore running back Johnny Mims (Dorchester, Mass.) punched it in to knot the score at 6-6. The Corsairs could have taken the lead but the conversion attempt was pushed wide.
The Bears reclaimed the lead (13-6) with 11:21 remaining in the second quarter as Higgins connected with senior tight end James Keating (Norton, Mass.) on a three-yard touchdown pass to cap off an 11-play, 55-yard drive. The extra point by junior placekicker Russell Bolarinho (Acushnet, Mass.) was good. For Keating, the touchdown marked the first of his collegiate career.
The Corsairs answered right back on a 34-yard scoring strike from senior quarterback Cory Burnham (Essex, Mass.) to senior wide receiver John Beardsley (Essex, Mass.) with 9:11 left to play in the quarter. Senior kicker Steve Trask (Billerica, Mass.) knocked through the PAT to tie the score at 13-13.
Following an exchange of punts, Bridgewater marched 75 yards on 12 plays capped off by McLaughlin's TD run with just 1:27 remaining before halftime. Bolarinho's extra point attempt was true as the Bears led 20-13 at the intermission.
After a scoreless third quarter, UMass got its offense untracked midway through the fourth. Starting at their own nine with 6:46 remaining in the game, the Corsairs drove 91 yards in just 48 seconds with Burnham hooking up with Beardsley on a 28-yard touchdown pass. Junior running back Eddie Sherman (Chelmsford, Mass.) had the big play of the three-play drive as he broke off a 39-yard run which was also aided by a 15-yard personal foul penalty against Bridgewater State. The game-tying point after try, however, was pushed wide left as the Corsairs trailed 20-19 with just under six minutes showing on the scoreboard.
The Bears picked up four first downs on the ensuing drive, including a 12-yard touchdown run by Garrett. McLaughlin rushed for 53 yards on the seven-play, 65-yard drive which ate up 3:52 off the clock. Bolarinho converted the PAT to give the hosts a 27-19 advantage with 2:11 left to play.
Trailing by eight with 2:06 remaining and starting at their own 36, UMass moved the ball down to the Bears' 45-yard line as Sheridan posted runs of 10 and 25 yards. A big offensive pass interference penalty, however, stalled the drive, and BSU freshman cornerback Juan Gonzalez (Lawrence, Mass.) sealed the win for Bridgewater State with his first career interception.
The BSU defense was outstanding throughout the game as the Bears limited the Corsairs to 278 yards of total offense, including 177 rushing yards. UMass entered the game averaging over 500 yards of total offense (502.6) and 339.6 rushing yards. Bridgewater also forced two turnovers (both interceptions) and recorded 13 tackles for loss including five sacks.
Senior linebacker Stephen Jacobs (Tyngsboro, Mass.) notched a career and game-high 16 tackles (11 solo) with 3 ½ tackles for loss and 1 ½ sacks. Junior linebacker Charles McCarthy (North Reading, Mass.) added 11 tackles (eight solo) with four tackles for loss and pair of sacks.
Higgins completed 15 of 24 passes for 172 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He became the first quarterback in BSU history to eclipse the 5,000-yard passing milestone. The Bears' all-time passing leader now has 5,117 yards in four seasons at Bridgewater State.
Senior wideout Dukens Léon (Paris, France) caught five passes for 84 yards, while junior receiver Travis Bassett (Littleton, Mass.) grabbed four receptions for 59 yards. Garrett finished with 171 all-purpose yards as well as his two touchdowns.
Beardsley finished with five receptions for a game-high 88 yards and the two touchdowns to pace the UMD offense. Sheridan rushed for 113 yards on 17 carries, while Burnham completed 8 of 19 pass attempts for 101 yards and two scores.
Next week, Bridgewater welcomes Plymouth State University to Swenson Field on Saturday, October 15th. Expected kickoff time for the Bears' "Homecoming Game" is 4:00 PM. UMass travels to Worcester State University on Saturday the 15th for a two o'clock game with the Lancers.
Notes: Bassett moved past BSU Hall of Famer Rich Roath (1968-71) into fourth place on the Bears all-time receptions list and fifth place on the all-time receiving yardage list. Bassett now has 106 catches for 1,626 yards in just three seasons with the Bears. Roath finished his career with 105 receptions and 1,616 receiving yards.