Central Survives Saint Francis For Homecoming Victory

Central Survives Saint Francis For Homecoming Victory

 

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By Sean Begin

The Blue Devils faithfully packed the parking lot of Arute Field on a warm homecoming Saturday, decked in their blue and white “Super Fan” long sleeve shirts, ready to watch their football team take on the first conference foe of the season.

For the first half, led by sophomore quarterback Nick SanGiacomo and a smothering defense, Central Connecticut (2-4, 1-0 NEC) looked unstoppable.

But a furious second half comeback from Saint Francis University (1-4, 0-1 NEC) sent the Blue Devil defense scrambling before buckling down and forcing back-to-back three and outs by the Red Flash offense, sealing the 38-29 victory.

“We actually played a really good defensive game,” said Coach Jeff McInerney. “We caged them up pretty good. Not great, the way we want too, but overall we played well.”

The Blue Devil defense gave up only a field goal to Saint Francis in the first half, shutting down the FCS’s leading rusher, senior Kyle Harbridge.

Central held the running back, who was averaging 7.8 yards per carry, to only ten yards on nine carries, tackling Harbridge either at or behind the line of scrimmage on four of his nine attempts.

Returning after missing the last two games with an injury, SanGiacomo picked apart the Red Flash, completing 10 of 13 passes for 130 yards in the first half, despite playing without all the strength back in his arm, according to McInerney.

SanGiacomo led the Blue Devils on three straight touchdown drives – including one 66-yard bomb to junior wide receiver Tyrell Holmes – in the final six and a half minutes of the first half, putting Central up 28-3.

“The halftime score did not shock me,” said McInerney, “but we have to figure out a way to get them over the hump, where we go out and put four quarters together. You can’t do that in the third quarter.”

In that quarter, the Red Flash outscored Central 20-0, who suddenly could not contain Harbridge and lost all rhythm on offense.

Harbridge ripped off a 60-yard run on the second play of the quarter, finishing the scoring drive with 78 yards and the touchdown.

On Central’s answering drive, SanGiacomo made his big mistake, getting picked off by freshman defensive back Lorenzo Jerome, who returned the interception 65 yards to set up an easy touchdown.

The Red Flash defense stopped Central cold on their next drive, quickly returning the offense back to the field. Harbridge took over again, punching through the Blue Devil defense for a 16-yard score.

Saint Francis tacked on another touchdown in the fourth quarter following a Blue Devil field goal, but failed to convert the two point conversion to tie the game. Central started driving again, but a fumble by Hollomon in the red zone gave the Red Flash the ball back with just under nine minutes to play.

“When I did fumble I was frustrated,” said Hollomon, “but when it was time to go back out there, I just put it past me and was focusing on the next play. I know my teammates depend on me to go out there and make plays.”

The defense picked up the running back, however, forcing a three and out on Saint Francis’ next two drives, culminating with a sack from senior defensive back Chris Linares that silenced the Red Flash offense.

“They [the coaches] blitzed me and the linebacker and C.J. [Morrison] slowed him down and I just came in and cleaned it up,” said Linares of the play.

The Red Flash comeback was reminiscent of the game earlier this season at Lehigh, when the Blue Devils gave up a 20 point lead before losing in overtime.

“We kept preaching over and over that we had a lead and that’s exactly how it was at Lehigh and we gave it up and we didn’t want that to happen again,” said Linares. “This time it was a different outcome. We were more mentally tough and ready for the situation.”

The Blue Devils next game comes October 12 at Sacred Heart University, the second conference game for both teams.