Central Connecticut used an explosive running game in a 49-24 win over Wagner in Northeast Conference football action at Arute Field on Saturday. Despite playing in driving rain and cold weather, sophomore Aaron Dawson ran wild in the contest, rushing for a NEC and Central Connecticut single-game record 361 yards. He also punched in five touchdowns, matching a program record, and averaged 15.0 yards per run on 24 carries in the game.
Dawson's 361 yards in a single game is the sixth-highest single game total in NCAA history. His 308 yards in the second half set a new Division I NCAA mark (FCS and FBS) for yardage in a half.
With the win, Central improves to 5-4 overall and 3-1 in the Northeast Conference. Wagner slips to 2-6 overall and 1-2 in the NEC.
The Blue Devils are on a bye next week and will travel to Saint Francis U on Nov. 10.
Wagner took advantage of two CCSU miscues in the opening 3:38 to build a 14-point cushion. The Blue Devils were forced to punt on their first possession, but Chris Williams blocked the kick and Charbel Dabire picked it up and ran it back 36 yards for a touchdown.
On CCSU's next possession, Wagner's Titus Leo intercepted a pass on second down and ran it back 30 yards to make it 14-0 at 11:22 of the first quarter.
The Blue Devils would get on the board with a big play from their defense. After junior Francis Cole put a punt down to the Wagner 11, the Seahawks fumbled on first down that went into the endzone and sophomore DJ Exilhomme was able to recover it to cut the deficit to 14-7.
The Central defense would force a turnover on the next possession to set up another touchdown. Exhilhomme forced a fumble on a 4th-and-8 that was picked up by freshman DeQuan Williams on the Wagner 39 yardline.
After a 36-yard field goal put Wagner ahead 17-14 early in the second quarter, the Blue Devils responded with an 8-play, 73-yard drive to take its first lead of the day. Dolegala completed a pair of passes on the drive and sophomore Aaron Dawson had four carries, including a 23-yard rush through the middle for the score to put CCSU ahead 21-17 with 9:22 to go in the half.
Wagner appeared poised to take the lead just before halftime, using a 20-play, 64-yard drive to advance to the CCSU one-yard line, but junior Eric Henry forced a fumble that senior Troy Vasilescu covered up to protect the 21-17 lead heading into the intermission.
Wagner's second blocked punt of the day led to another touchdown early in the third quarter. Ali Brightwell blocked a kick at the CCSU 25 that was picked up and returned by Sterling Lowry. The Seahawks would get a third down completion from Luke Massei to Adam Giordano for the touchdown to make it 24-21.
The Blue Devils came back to score on their next play, setup by a 42-yard return by junior Tajik Bagley on the ensuing kick. On first down, Dawson broke through the line for a 45-yard run for the touchdown to give CCSU a 28-24 lead.
Central began to pull away midway through the fourth quarter. On a third down, Massei dropped back to pass, but his throw was picked off by senior Kevin Loschiavo at the CCSU 30 yard line. On the ensuing possession, Dawson ran for 13 yards on first down and then broke off a 57-yard run for the score to make it 35-24.
After forcing a three-and-out on the next Wagner possession, CCSU took over on its own 40 yard line. On first down, Dawson got loose for a 60-yard run to paydirt to extend the lead to 42-24 with 6:11 to play.
Dawson punched in his fifth touchdown of the day, and third of the fourth quarter, when he finished off a 55-yard run on a fourth-and-one with 3:21 left. The extra point made it 49-24 CCSU.
Dawson's last four touchdowns were all on runs of 45 yards or longer and each of his five scores covered at least 23 yards. His five-touchdown output matched a CCSU single-game record done on three prior occasions, and was last accomlished by Justise Hairston against Saint Francis U in 2006.
In the game, Central ran for 396 yards as a team and had 470 yards overall. Dolegala only had to attempt 15 passes on the day, throwing for 74 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Garcia led all receivers with 39 yards.
Henry led the Blue Devils defense with 11 total tackles. Exilhomme and Bagley had seven stops apiece. Loschiavo had six tackles and the interception. Sophomore Tre Jones made three tackles, including a sack and three stops for a loss.