NEW BRITAIN - Randall Laguerre has seen plenty of disappointment on the field for the Central Connecticut football team. Over his first three seasons, the Blue Devils never won more than four games, going 9-25 over that span.
That all changed Saturday afternoon thanks, in part, to the linebacker.
With Bryant driving down the field at the end of the fourth quarter and settled at the 1-yard line, Laguerre recovered a Prince Wilson fumble to seal the 31-14 win for the CCSU, its fifth straight as it heads into its bye week.
“It feels good,” said Laguerre, who finished with a season-high 16 tackles. “We deserve every inch of every win. We work for every win. We gave up one at home [to Fordham]. We should be 6-2, but we’re being more focused and flying around.”
But this game for many of the players was about respect as much as it was about the win. Last season, the Bulldogs beat CCSU 45-25 in what some saw as a running up of the score.
“It was pretty much redemption,” Laguerre said. “They laid a lot of points on us down there last year and we had to get them back.”
The Blue Devils (5-3, 3-0) now sit atop the Northeast Conference standings, tied with Duquesne (6-1, 3-0). Bryant (2-5, 0-2) has lost three straight.
CCSU also got plenty of contributions along the way. Courtney Rush accounted for two touchdowns, while Drew Jean-Guillaume ran for a career-high 123 yards and a score.
What helped the Blue Devils the most was they took control of the game early and never relinquished it, scoring on their first two possessions of the afternoon.
Rush capped off a nine-play, 61-yard drive for CCSU with a 3-yard end around. The junior receiver then connected with quarterback Jacob Dolegala for a 71-yard touchdown reception 2½ minutes later to put the Blue Devils up 14-0.
A Frankie Palmer 34-yard field goal sent CCSU into the locker room with a 17-0 lead.
With the Blue Devils struggling to establish the run in the first half, they turned to Dolegala to move the offense. The junior signal caller got into an early rhythm, completing 10 of his first 16 passes for 202 yards and the touchdown to Rush. He finished the game 16-of-26 for 252 yards.
“I thought Jake made some big plays early in the game with his legs under a lot of duress,” CCSU head coach Pete Rossomando said. “They have a good front seven, their two inside linebackers are excellent players and their D-line is very good.
“We knew that coming in and we knew we’d have a struggle and they schemed us up very good early on in the game.”
Bryant, however, would make the game interesting, scoring on both its first and final possession of the third quarter.
The Bulldogs used seven plays to go 58 yards with Wilson crossing the goal line from a yard out. A little over 10 minutes later he connected with Tom Kennedy for a 51-yard catch and run.
Wilson finished his afternoon completing 26 of his 42 passes for 381 yards. It was his first game without an interception this season. Six of those throws went to Kennedy, who ended with 161 receiving yards.
But the Blue Devils had the answer in one play.
Jean-Guillaume took 11 seconds off the clock with a 76-yard touchdown run, effectively putting the game out of reach. For Jean-Guillaume, it was the longest run of his career.
“This year we’ve just been focusing more on the run game than we did last year,” Jean Guillaume said. “It allows us to use more plays with play-action. All credit to the O-line today. They’re just working hard. They’ve been focusing in practice and getting the job done.”
Cameron Nash scored the only points of the fourth quarter on a 1-yard run, his ninth of the season.
CCSU will now have an off week before continuing conference play Nov. 4 against St. Francis (PA) with more to prove.
“We feel great,” Dolegala said. “That was a huge win today. We’re treating each conference game like a championship game and that’s our goal.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @DavidGlovach