BRIDGEWATER, Mass. – The visiting Western Connecticut State University football team opened Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) play with a 42-33 victory over Bridgewater State University on Saturday afternoon at Swenson Field.
The Colonials improve to 3-0 on the season and 1-0 in the MASCAC, while the host Bears fall to 0-3 overall and 0-1 in conference play. West Conn has won each of the last three meetings of the two team, but still trail in the all-time series, 12-11.
Senior quarterback David James (Stamford, Conn.) completed 18 of 23 pass attempts for 283 yards and four touchdowns to pace Western Connecticut. James also rushed for 46 yards and a score.
Sophomore wide receiver Will Daniels (Bethel, Conn.) was James' main target. Daniels hauled in eight receptions for 162 yards and two touchdowns.
Senior running back Nick Santavicca (Yorktown Height, N.Y.) led the BSU offensive attack as he rushed for a game and season-high 200 yards and three touchdowns on 31 carries. Santavicca equaled his career-high of 200 rushing yards set last season against Buffalo State.
Bears' senior quarterback Stefano D'Emilia (Bridgewater, Mass.) completed 20 of 30 passes for 200 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Sophomore receiver Colin O'Brien (Middleboro, Mass.) grabbed five receptions for 78 yards and his first two collegiate touchdowns.
The two teams exchanged scores in the first half as the Colonials led 21-20 at the break. Neither squad punted over the first 30 minutes.
West Conn capitalized on a Bridgewater State fumble on the opening drive as the Colonials moved the ball 86 yards on seven plays capped off by a 27-yard touchdown pass from James to Daniels. A key play on the drive was a pass interference penalty on second and 13 from Western Connecticut 11.
The Bears answered with a 12-play, 75-yard drive culminating in a 20-yard scoring strike from D'Emilia to O'Brien. A 19-yard pass to O'Brien on third and 20 from the BSU 48 and a fourth down conversion run by D'Emilia kept the drive alive.
The Colonials pulled ahead 14-7 on their opening possession of the second quarter on a 28-yard TD pass from James to senior wideout Devon Smith (Wethersfield, Conn.). The drive, which was set up by a 31-yard kickoff return by sophomore Roy Penn-Consentino (Liberty, Mass.), went 58 yards on just six plays. James completed five passes on the drive.
Bridgewater knotted the score at 14-all with 7:14 remaining in the second quarter as Santavicca's two-yard touchdown run put the finishing touches on a nine-play, 75-yard drive. Santavicca accounted for 48 of the 75 yards with runs of 2, 22, 12 and ten yards along with his TD run.
West Conn answered again with a quick four-play, 52-yard drive with James punching it in from five yards out. Junior Jahzaari Mullings (Bridgeport, Conn.) set up the short drive with a 30-yard kickoff return. The key play of the drive was a 34-yard pass from James to Daniels.
Santavicca closed out the first-half scoring with a six-yard TD run which capped off an eight-play, 75-yard drive. The extra point, however, was blocked by Western senior defensive end Jordan Fletcher (Manchester, Conn.). The two teams would head to the locker-room with the Colonials clinging to a 21-20 lead. 64 of the 75 yards came on the ground with Santavicca rushing for 53 yards and sophomore Jeremy Soule Jr. (Middleboro, Mass.) accounting for 21.
The Bears forced the first punt of the game on the opening possession of the third quarter and promptly moved the ball 70 yards on eight plays with Santavicca scoring his third touchdown of the afternoon. His four-yard scamper gave the hosts their first lead of the game, 27-21, with 10:12 left in the period. The key play of the drive was a 15-yard pass from D'Emilia to O'Brien on fourth and five from the West Conn 32.
Starting at their own 29-yard line, the Colonials answered with a long ten-play drive with Smith finding the end zone from two-yard outs. Senior kicker Jordan D'Onofrio (Orange, Conn.) converted the PAT to give the visitors the 28-27 advantage. James rushed for 37 yards and threw for 22 on the drive.
Sophomore Maurice Ashley's (Brockton, Mass.) 38-yard return on the ensuing kickoff gave the Bears good field position at their own 42. Eight plays later, D'Emilia found O'Brien in the end zone from 12 yards out to reclaim the lead, 33-28, with 14:54 remaining in the fourth quarter. Bridgewater went for two, but was unable to convert.
That lead was short-lived, however, as the Colonials scored just 2:49 later on a 28-yard touchdown pass from James to senior receiver Nick Kimball (New Milford, Conn.). D'Onofrio's PAT made it a 35-33 game with 12:06 left to play. A 24-yard pass from James to Daniels on third and seven from the West Conn 32 kept the drive alive.
The next two drives resulted in punts. Taking over at their own 30, the Bears moved the ball down to the West Conn 32. The drive would stall as three straight incomplete passes set up a key fourth down play. Fletcher then came up with a big strip-sack to end the potential scoring drive.
After a punt and a turnover on downs, the Colonials put the game out of reach with a 14-yard TD pass from James to Daniels. D'Onofrio converted his sixth PAT of the game to account for the final score of 42-33.
West Conn racked up 369 yards of total offense with 283 coming through the air. The Colonials registered 18 first downs and did not commit a turnover.
Bridgewater finished with 436 yards of total offense including 236 on the ground. The Bears notched 31 first downs and held nearly a ten-minute advantage in time of possession (+9:59).
Junior linebacker Vincent Scancarello (Monroe, Mass.) paced the West Conn defense with ten tackles (nine solo), while Fletcher recorded four tackles (two solo) with 1 /2 sacks, a forced fumble and a blocked extra point. Senior defensive back Austin Thornberg (East Haven, Conn.) added eight stops (six solo) for the Colonials.
Senior defensive tackle Chris Gemayel (Dedham, Mass.) tallied 11 tackles (six solo) with 2 ½ for loss and one forced fumble to lead the Bears' defensive effort. Senior safety Mark Wilson (Foxborough, Mass.) checked In with eight tackles (five solo) and two pass breakups, while sophomore linebacker Steven Silvia (Dighton, Mass.) added five tackles (four solo) with two for loss.
The MASCAC schedule continues for both teams next Saturday afternoon. The Bears travel to Fitchburg State University for a noontime game with the Falcons, while the Colonials head to Worcester State University to take on the Lancers at 2:30.
Notes: With his 200 yards on the ground, Santavicca moved into 15th place on the Bears' all-time rushing list. He now has 1,502 yards rushing in three seasons at Bridgewater State....D'Emilia now has 373 pass completions in his career as he moved past Mike McCarthy (2010-13) into second place on the Bears' all-time list.