Central Connecticut State football (3-6) is on the road this weekend, heading to Duquesne (5-3) looking to make it three in a row for the first time this season.
Kick off from Rooney field will come at noon on Saturday. A win for either side will help break a four-way tie for second-place in the Northeast Conference race, with Sacred Heart leading the way at 6-3 (4-1).
The tie for second includes CCSU, Duquesne, Saint Francis University and Bryant, all of whom are 3-2 in league play.
Last week’s win over Bryant was the most sound offensively and defensively the Blue Devils have looked all season. A combination of strong pass coverage, along with containing a mobile quarterback helped keep Bryant’s offense off the field as the conference-leading time of possession offense for CCSU ran up the score.
Bryant combined for only 220 yards of total offense while CCSU ran for 160 yards and passed for 168.
The return of Kelvin Apari also helped CCSU in the win, helping force a fumble in the final minute that was recovered for a touchdown. His absence against Sacred Heart was noticeable, along with other key players, which led to the defense having one of its worst days of the season.
Now, Apari is back, and he brings a team-leading 43 tackles and five sacks (third in NEC) to the defensive line.
The defense will look to contain a steady running back room that is led by Billy Lucas and Garrett Owens. Owens has the slight edge in rushing yards with 606 while Lucas has 577, and are ranked third and fourth respectively in the conference. The tandem has been efficient in getting the ball to the end zone too, with both combining for 10 rushing scores.
When it comes to average yards per carry, the offensive line has helped extend the run greatly. Lucas’ 5.4 yard per carry average is the highest among rushers with more than five attempts on the team. Owens also has had no issue running at five yards per carry.
For CCSU the emphasis on stopping the run will once again be paramount. The Blue Devils have successfully stifled the run on occasion this season, and at times have prevented teams from getting things going all together. The lowest amount of yards allowed on the ground this season comes from Week 2 vs. Wagner, where 49 yards rushing were allowed. The next lowest was Week 6 against Columbia with 52 yards and Week 8 against LIU with 59 yards.
The worst showing came against the conference rushing leaders Sacred Heart, who torched them for 211 yards on the ground. Duquesne is third in the ground attack, behind Bryant, and if the Blue Devils want to be successful they need to keep the consistency of last week’s Bryant win for this week.
This week the Blue Devils will have to also shape things up on offense and prevent the turnover, making it so Duquesne has limited second-chance opportunity to get the legs going. Duquesne is currently sixth in the league in sacks (18) showing they struggle to get to the quarterback, which can give Romelo Williams a chance to let the play develop and pass down field if needed.
But when it comes to yards allowed, they’re second-best in the league (2,878 yards allowed), behind a lockdown Bryant team that was just exposed last week by CCSU. They’re also tied for third in touchdowns allowed with 28.
What needs to go right this week for CCSU? Play the same game as last week, retain the consistency against a team and limit the turnovers to prevent a second chance. It seems simple, but it’ll need to happen for three in a row for the Blue Devils.