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Home Opener for Football as Blue Devils Host Merrimack on Saturday Night

Home Opener for Football as Blue Devils Host Merrimack on Saturday Night
Today's Game • The Blue Devils host Merrimack in the second-ever meeting between the two schools tonight at 6 p.m.  The game will be televised by the Northeast Conference on ESPN3.  It marks the first of five home games for the Blue Devils this season, but the only non-conference game at home.  CCSU will not return home to play until Oct. 19 when they host Bryant on Homecoming.  Central will then play four of their final six games at home. 
McCarthy Gets the Call • Following the departure of five-year head coach Pete Rossomando, offensive coordinator Ryan McCarthy was promoted to interim head coach for the 2019 season.  McCarthy had been on staff with the Blue Devils for four seasons and last year he led the league's top scoring and yardage offense.  
Next Up • The Blue Devils will take to the road next weekend to play Valparaiso at 2 p.m.  CCSU and Valpo are meeting for the first time ever on the football field.  Valpo will return the game to CCSU next season. 
Road Warriors Until Oct. 19 • The Blue Devils will play just one home game over the first seven weeks of the season.  CCSU opened at Fordham, then home vs Merrimack on Sept. 7.  Following the game vs. Merrimack, CCSU will play games at Valparaiso and Eastern Michigan before a bye week on Sept. 28.  They will then play at Sacred Heart and at Columbia before returning home on Oct. 19 for HOMECOMING vs. Bryant.  Starting Oct. 19, CCSU plays four of six at home.
Pair Honored by NEC • Sophomore Dexter Lawson and redshirt freshman Kenyata Huston earned a pair of Northeast Conference weekly football honors on Monday.  Lawson was named the league's Defensive Player of the Week, while Huston was named the Rookie of the Week.  Lawson made multiple impactful plays to spark the Blue Devils on Saturday night. The sophomore cornerback created two turnovers and scored a defensive touchdown during the 26-23 road win. He totaled four tackles, 2.0 TFL, a sack and was also credited with one pass break-up. His interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter was the turning point of the game. Huston made his five touches count during the road victory. The running back averaged 12.2 yards per rush attempt and logged one reception for a six-yard gain. The Empire State product registered CCSU's first touchdown of the season, capping the game-opening drive by breaking the play outside and turning upfield for a 34-yard scoring scamper. In the second quarter, his 19-yard burst on a 2nd-and-10 play set the Blue Devils up at the Rams' 3-yard line. Huston also forced a fumble on punt coverage.
FORDHAM ON AUG. 31, 2019
CCSU 26, at Fordham 23 - Aug. 31, 2019
The Central Connecticut football team used a last second 31-yard field goal from senior placekicker Francis Cole to come away with a season-opening 26-23 road victory at Fordham on Saturday.  The win is the second straight for the Blue Devils over the Rams, a member of the Patriot League.  Central rushed the ball for 254 yards in the win, including 108 from senior quarterback Aaron Winchester.  Winchester was making his first start as a member of the Blue Devils.  A huge 48-yard interception return for a touchdown from sophomore Dexter Lawson in the third quarter helped propel the Blue Devils to the victory.
• Cole's 31-yard field goal, after missing a pair earlier in the game, gave the Blue Devils the win on the road.
• The Blue Devils put together a six-play, 61-yard drive in the final 1:53 of the game to answer a Fordham touchdown and come away with the victory.
• Lawson's first career interception for CCSU came in the third quarter and gave the Blue Devils a 23-16 lead.
• CCSU was 2-for-2 on 2-point conversion attempts in the win.  The also converted on one fourth down attempt.
• Cole had three attempts at the final field goal.  Fordham called timeouts on the first attempt (miss) and the second attempt (make), and then made the third for the win.
48 – The interception return by sophomore Dexter Lawson was the first of his career and went 48 yards for the score to give CCSU a 23-16 lead in the fourth quarter.
• Tonight marked the 3rd meeting, all three meetings have come in the last three seasons. The road team has won every game in the series.
• Winchester threw his first touchdown as a Blue Devils to junior Tyshaun James in the second quarter.  The play was good for 14 yards.
• Huston scored his first touchdown in a CCSU uniform in the first quarter.  The run came from 34-yard out and was his first carry of the season.
• Lawson's first interception in a CCSU uniform gave CCSU the 23-16 lead when he returned it 48-yards for the score.  The second two-point conversion of the day gave CCSU the seven-point edge. The Pick-6 marked the second time in as many seasons that a CCSU defensive back returned an interception for a TD at Fordham.
Winchester Shines in Debut • Graduate transfer Aaron Winchester took over the quarterback duties as the Blue Devils had a new starter under center for the first time since the 2014 season.  Winchester came to CCSU from Georgia State, where he was a captain as a back-up last season.  In his first game he did not disappoint, rushing for 108 yards on 14 carries and finishing the game 11-of-20 for 113 yards and a touchdown through the air.
A QB for 100 • The 108 rushing yards by Winchester last Saturday night marked the first 100 yard rushing game for a CCSU quarterback since Andrew Clements in 2012 to rush for 100 yards in a game.  Clements rushed 15 times for 103 yards and two touchdowns in a loss at Stony Brook to open the 2012 season.
Brown Earns Preseason All-America Honor • Senior offensive lineman J'Von Brown was named to the STATS FCS Preseason All-America Team.  Earlier this summer Brown was named to the Athlon FCS Preseason All-America Team. He was also honored with Preseason All-Northeast Conference honors.  The senior is one of five lineman in the country to be named to the STATS First Team.  He is one of two NEC players on the First Team. Brown was a Second Team STATS FCS All-America selection a season ago as a junior in 2018.  
Dolegala and the Bengals • Last Saturday was final cut down day in the NFL and former Central Connecticut quarterback Jacob Dolegala was anxious the night before.  The anxiety went away on Saturday when the Cincinnati roster was announced and told Dolegala that he made the final cut.  Dolegala is now an official member of the Bengals 53-man roster. Dolegala, an undrafted free agent signed by the Bengals following the 2019 Draft, played in the final two preseason games with the Bengals.  He was impressive in both.  Against the Giants he finished 10-of-12 for 94 yards and a pair of touchdowns.  He played every snap of the final preseason game against the Colts, finishing 27-of-41 for 253 yards.  For the preseason Dolegala completed 37-of-53 for 347 yards and a pair of scores, without throwing an interception. Dolegala finished a stellar career with the Blue Devils as the school's all-time leader in passing yardage and touchdowns, becoming just the fifth quarterback in league history to throw for over 8,000 yards.  He threw for 48 career touchdowns.  As a senior he completed 61 percent of his passes for 2,221 yards and 16 touchdowns while throwing just six interceptions.  He also finished fourth on the team in rushing with 274 yards on the ground to go along with six rushing touchdowns and was a First Team All-Northeast Conference selection.Dolegala finished his CCSU career 654-of-1136 for 8,129 yards, 48 touchdowns and 29 interceptions.  He set the school-record with 2,934 passing yards as a sophomore in 2016, completing 258-of-432 passes while throwing only nine interceptions.  He also rushed for 452 yards in his career, including 18 touchdowns. Dolegala becomes the first CCSU player to make an NFL roster since former offensive lineman and arena league standout Rich Ranglin signed with the Chiefs during the 2012 season.
CCSU Picked Third in the NEC • CCSU was picked third in the Northeast Conference preseason coaches' poll at the league's 2019 Social Media Day at MetLife Stadium. The Blue Devils also had six players named to the Preseason All-Northeast Conference Team revealed during the day's festivities. The Blue Devils were tabbed third in the preseason poll after finishing third in the league standings in 2018. Duquesne was a unanimous choice as the conference's preseason favorite. CCSU closes out the regular-season on the road against the Dukes on Nov. 23.  Central's offense, which led the conference in scoring and yardage last season, had four players named to the Preseason All-NEC Team, including three offensive linemen. Seniors J'Von Brown and Cole Phelps, along with junior Connor Mignone return to anchor a unit that piled up over 432 yards per game last season to rank 29th among FCS squads. The veteran unit also ranked seventh nationally in sacks allowed. Mignone and Brown were both All-NEC First Team picks last season, while Phelps was on the Second Team.  Brown enters the season having been named to the Athlon FCS Preseason All-America Team after earning Second Team STATS All-America honors as a junior. Mignone, who earned All-America honors as a rookie, and Phelps, a two-year starter, will anchor the line with Brown for a squad that averaged 223.6 yards on the ground to rank 21st nationally last season. Junior Tyshaun James rounded out CCSU's preseason offensive selections and returns at wide receiver after collecting a team-high four receiving touchdowns. He played in all 11 games last year and had 20 catches and averaged nearly 11 yards a reception. Senior defensive back Tajik Bagley and junior defensive back DJ Exilhomme represented the CCSU defense on the league's preseason team. Bagley, an All-NEC First Team pick in 2018, was fourth on the team in tackles with 50 and was second on the team with nine pass break-ups as a junior. As a returner, Bagley averaged 22.0 yards on kickoff returns and 13.1 yards on punt returns. He took a punt back 82 yards for a touchdown against Columbia last season. Exilhomme emerged as a sophomore and was named to the All-NEC First Team after leading the team in tackles with 74 tackles. He also added four forced fumbles, an interception and five pass break-ups.
Offensive Minded • The Blue Devils led the league in scoring offense a year ago at 33.8 points per game.  Central's 51 touchdowns were tied for the most in the league.  They also led the league in total offense (432.3 yards per game) were second in rushing offense (223.6 yards per game) and second in passing offense (208.6 yard per game).    
Into the Record Book • Place kicker Francis Cole, a senior this season, kicked his way into the football record book in the road loss at Lafayette last year.  Just before halftime Cole kicked a school-record 50-yard field goal to put the Blue Devils up 17-14. It was the first 50+ yard field goal in school history, topping the record of 49 set by Mike O'Sullivan vs. Springfield in 1984. 
Bagley to the House • Defensive back Tajik Bagley became the first Blue Devil since 2003 to return a punt for a touchdown when he returned a Columbia punt 82 yards for a score in the first quarter on Sept. 15, 2018.  The last Blue Devil to return a punt for a touchdown, prior to Bagley, was former defensive back Donnie Rose, who returned a punt 90 yards vs. Monmouth on Nov. 1, 2003.  
Mushaw WAS the Match! • For the past five years, the Blue Devil football program has teamed up with the Be The Match Program to add close to 1,000 CCSU students, faculty and staff to the national bone marrow registry. Last year they got word that one of the people they had signed up had been chosen as a match. Linebacker Mike Mushaw was selected as a match, and last summer he donated his marrow to help save the life of someone he has never met.  CCSU football has joined the efforts of Villanova football head coach Andy Talley to raise awareness of the need for marrow donors and helping patients receive life-saving transplants. Talley and others have helped recruit thousands of potential donors to the registry by encouraging their football players, other students and their peers on other teams to sign up, along with friends, family and teachers. Last year alone, close to 10,000 people joined the Be The Match Registry through Get in the Game. Save A Life. donor registry drives. 
Overtime, Again • The Blue Devils played one of the most memorable games in school history in 2017 topping Wagner 51-45 in 4OT on Staten Island.  The game is the longest in school history and the ninth-ever overtime game for CCSU.  The Blue Devils are now 6-3 all-time in overtime.  
NEC Front Row • Live webcasts of NEC sports will be available free of charge on NECFrontRow.com again this season. The site will carry every CCSU NEC football game this season, excluding those games designated by the NEC to air on ESPN3/ESPN+.





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