#19 Football Wins Overtime Thriller Over Saint Francis

Trevi Alickolli , Assistant Sports Editor

Ranked #19, Central Connecticut football remained undefeated in the Northeast Conference with a 38-31 victory over Saint Francis University. Linebacker Mike Mushaw, who had the one of the best days of his life on Saturday for other reasons beyond game day, came up with the game-winning sack to seal the victory.

“It feels great to end the game like this,” Mushaw said. “I’m so excited, this game was for her, everything was for her. She’s an inspiration to me. She’s fought back through more than I could ever imagine. She’s Wonder Woman, she’s amazing.”

Mushaw donated his bone marrow to 22-month-old Eleanor more than a year ago through the BeTheMatch foundation and was finally able to meet her this week after countless phone and FaceTime calls.

“It’s fitting, he’s a phenomenal kid,” head coach Ryan McCarthy said. ” I didn’t even realize he was the one that had the sack at the end but that’s fitting. The whole week has been emotional and I know he was nervous.”

Despite the nerves, Mushaw put together one of his better performances this season with seven total tackles, two for loss, a pass breakup and the game-winning sack.

Outside of Mushaw, Central’s defense, along with their offense, struggled at times but head coach Ryan McCarthy know the important thing is that his team figured out a way to win.

“It probably wasn’t our best effort defensively, it wasn’t our best effort offensively in terms of putting our guys in a position to make plays, but when we had to, [we did],” McCarthy said. “[The] bottom line is, good teams, they find a way to win.”

To get this win, McCarthy had to turn to his playmakers in key situations.

“Tyshaun [James] came up big, Aaron [Winchester] came up big with some big completions,” McCarthy said. “It’s players, not plays.”

Offensively, Central struggled for most of the first half but got the ball rolling in the second.

“That’s a good defense,” McCarthy said. “Every year we’ve played them, they’re top 10 in the country defensively so we knew what we were up against.”

“[SFU’s] Da’Jon Lee is an outstanding player, he’s the second-best player in the conference. He didn’t make things easy for Aaron with some of the zone-read stuff we were doing but we figured it out when we went to spread.”

James was also held in check, but knew to stay ready.

“[Just] staying focused, staying [dialed in],” James said. “You don’t know when the ball is coming to you so you just have to go hard every play.”

James finished the game with an offensive hat trick. For the first time in his career, he completed a pass, caught a pass and ran the ball.

He completed his lone pass attempt for 34 yards. James caught six passed for 95 yards and a touchdown. Lastly, he ran the ball once for 48 yards and a touchdown.

McCarthy said the game plan was simple with James.

“It goes back to just getting him the football,” McCarthy said. “When he’s on, when he’s going, he is a hard guy to stop. Our MO has to be ‘let’s get him the ball’ every week.”

Winchester completed 18 of 24 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns.

James said this was a good team win and they showed what Central is all about on Saturday.

“We got a lot of fight,” James said. “Just happy to get the win. There [are] no soft teams in the conference and Saint Francis showed us why they’re one of the best teams in the [NEC].

The Blue Devils have two more games to finish out their regular season and McCarthy knows the importance of each.

“We know we’re going to have our hands full,” McCarthy said. “Every week is championship football, it takes very little to derail that but we found a way this week. Going forward, we gotta have a good week of practice.”

“The most important thing, in my opinion, is the state of the flock and I think our kid’s mindset is in a good place.”

Central will finish their season facing Robert Morris University at home this week, Nov. 16 and Duquesne University away on Nov. 23.

Kickoff is scheduled for 12 p.m. against the Colonials.