Central Connecticut mounted a late comeback against Sacred Heart on Saturday in Northeast Conference football action at Arute Field, but came up just short falling 28-25. The Blue Devils trailed by two possessions with just over five minutes to play, but managed to set up a game-tying field goal at the end of the game.
Central slips to 4-4 overall and 2-1 in NEC play, while Sacred Heart is now 4-3 overall and 2-0 in the league. The Blue Devils will play their second straight home game when they host Wagner on Saturday, October 27, at 12:00 p.m.
Central Connecticut's offense was held scoreless in the second half until just over five minutes remained in the game, while Sacred Heart would score touchdowns on three of its first four possessions in the second half to build a double-digit lead.
CCSU trailed 28-17 late in the fourth quarter before beginning its comeback with a 73 yard drive to cut the deficit to a field goal. The Blue Devils would convert a pair of fourth downs on the drive, the second one was set up by a SHU penalty that put the ball at the Sacred Heart 15. On the next play senior Jacob Dolegala hit junior Arthur Gilmore, Jr. across the middle for a touchdown. The pair would connect on the ensuing two-point conversion to make it 28-25 with 5:26 to play.
The Blue Devils' defense would force a Pioneers punt on the next possession and give the ball back to the offense with 2:36 to play. Central would take over on its own 17, and run a 14-play drive that included a fourth-down conversion to keep the drive alive. Back-to-back runs by junior Drew Jean-Guillaume would move the ball to the Sacred Heart 27 yard-line before the drive stalled and set up a fourth down. The Blue Devils would set up for a 44-yard field goal that missed wide left with :05 to play.
The Blue Devils had built a halftime lead after rushing for nearly 200 yards in the oppening half and controlling the ball for twice as long as SHU. Central opened the scoring on its first drive of the day. The Blue Devils picked up 37 yards on a pass from Dolegala to senior Courtney Rush to highlight the possession and junior Francis Cole capped the nine-play, 48-yard drive with a 43-yard field goal to make it 3-0.
After the Sacred Heart defense forced a CCSU punt, the Pioneers offense took over at the 50 yardline. Kevin Duke would cap the drive with an eight yard pass to Andrew O'Neill for a touchdown to make it 7-3 with 4:40 left in the opening quarter.
That would be Sacred Heart's only lead of the opening half as the Blue Devils would respond on their next drive going 70 yards in 11 plays to regain the lead. Sophomore Aaron Dawson had a 34-yard reception on the drive to put the ball in SHU territory. Dawson would cap the drive four plays later with a 20-yard rush off the left side for a touchdown to make it 10-7 with 13:36 to play in the half.
CCSU would force a punt and take over on their own 23 yardline before extending the lead on the next possession. Junior Drew Jean-Guillaume would run for seven yards on first down before breaking off a 70-yard run for the touchdown to put the Blue Devils up 17-7 and close out the first half scoring.
Sacred Heart would score three touchdowns in the second half to take the lead in the game. The Pioneers would opened the half by marching 75 yards for a touchdown. Kevin Duke would complete a 53 yard pass to Kezio Snelling that put the Pioneers deep in CCSU territory. On third-and-two, Duke would complete a pass to Ed Cuddahy for seven yards to cut the Central lead to 17-14.
Sacred Heart would take the lead with a 78 yard drive late in the third quarter. Duke would complete three passes for 55 yards during the drive and cap it with a three-yard run for a touchdown to make it 21-17.
The Pioneers extended the lead on the next drive with Duke and O'Neill connecting on three passes. The pair would connect on a 21-yard touchdown with 9:00 to play to put SHU ahead, 28-17, before Central began to make its late rally.
The Blue Devils finished the game with 480 yards of total offense, including 229 on the ground. Jean-Guillaume gained 142 yards with a score on 20 carries. It was his third straight game with at leas 100 yards on the ground. Dolegala completed 22-of-34 passes for 251 yards and a touchdown. Jean-Guillaume had six catches for 40 yards, while sophomore Aaron Dawson had 51 yards on two catches. Senior Jose Garcia had five grabs for 46 yards, while Gilmore finished with two catches for 33 yards and a touchdown.
CCSU is back at Arute Field on Saturday, Oct. 27, in a Noon kickoff.