NEW BRITAIN - As the Central Connecticut State football team filtered in and out of its locker room Saturday, one couldn’t help but note the sense the Blue Devils still believe they have something to prove.
Even after a 31-14 win over Bryant Saturday that has CCSU on a five-game winning streak and tied at the top of the Northeast Conference standings, there was an understanding of unfinished business.
“We’ve got to keep [our players] focused on the task and that’s the next game,” head coach Pete Rossomando said. “You start looking ahead and all of a sudden, you’re in trouble. You can’t look ahead and you can’t look behind. You can’t worry about what yesterday, you have to worry about today and tomorrow.”
The wins are certainly nice, the players and coaches admitted. They are, after all, coming in bunches as of late as the Blue Devils (5-3, 3-0) find themselves in the middle of their best season since 2010, when they went 8-3. They also know, however, there is still a long way to go.
The game against the Bulldogs (2-5, 0-2) was the second in a stretch of five games for CCSU against conference opponents they lost to a season ago.
Some saw Saturday as redemption, while others as payback for last year’s 45-25 loss. But it might have been about something a little more personal.
“More like respect,” said senior linebacker Randall Laguerre, who finished with a season-high 16 tackles.
“We feel that we’re not really respected in the conference, but we have a lot of guys who should be respected and that’s what we’re going to prove.
“I’ve been here for four years, this is the best we’re doing right now. We have potential, but we’re finally realizing our potential and playing to our potential.”
Laguerre knows just as well as anyone, having seen plenty of CCSU teams fall short. During his first three years, the Blue Devils never won more than four games, compiling a 9-25 record over that span.
Close games would turn into what ifs. Now, those games are turning into wins.
“It’s just confidence,” Laguerre said. “We don’t get nervous. We just [get the job done] and keep winning.”
Said running back Drew Jean-Guillaume, “From the last season, it’s been a little slow, but to get five in a row now and get rolling, we finally have good chemistry. We’re a little bit older, but it definitely feels good. We just have to keep rolling.”
The Blue Devils have certainly set themselves up to be successful, taking advantage of the opportunities they did not over the first three weeks.
Against Bryant, the defense came away with two fourth-quarter turnovers. The offense, meanwhile, started strong and ended the same way, scoring the first two and last two touchdowns of the game.
Courtney Rush sparked the offense with a 3-yard touchdown run and then connected with quarterback Jacob Dolegala for a 70-yard score 2½ minutes apart in the first quarter.
Jean-Guillaume gave the Blue Devils their fifth straight 100-yard rusher when he rushed 76 yards for a score in the third. His 123 yards on the ground was a new career high.
Cameron Nash then capped off the afternoon with a touchdown of his own in the fourth.
“Our guys have done a really good job, they really have,” Rossomando said. “They’ve done a good job of understanding where we are. ‘You’re the same team that was 0-3 at one time and you’re a good team then and you’re a good team now.’ Every week you have to continue to get better because teams are going to start coming after you. That’s where we are right now with some big games coming up.”
It will be those games that will ultimately determine what kind of season the Blue Devils have. St. Francis (PA) awaits on Nov. 4, after the bye week, with NEC power Duquesne and Robert Morris to follow. Each one will be a must-win.
And some might see a bye week at this point, when there is so much going for CCSU, as a disruption to the momentum it has built up, but the team certainly does not see it that way.
“Mentally we’re where we want to be,” Dolegala said. “I guess everything is clicking right now. We’re doing the things we need to do. We’re going to treat each game like a championship game and that’s how we’re going to treat the rest of the season.”
Unfinished business indeed.
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter: @DavidGlovach