DURHAM, N.H. - It was quite an experience for Tanner Kingsley - both good and bad.
The sophomore quarterback entered the media room dressed in his Central Connecticut State gear, a hat on his head, eye black still on and most notable, his left arm under his sweatshirt in a sling. It was hard not to note the disappointment in his voice when he answered a question.
The Blue Devils had just competed in their first ever FCS playoff game, a 14-0 loss to New Hampshire on Saturday with Kingsley under center in place of the suspended Jacob Dolegala, the team’s usual starter.
It was on Monday when he learned he would be making his first collegiate start in the biggest game in the program’s history. No doubt, a difficult task for a player to had just 13 pass attempts on the season. But Kingsley didn’t see it that way.
“I definitely thought I was ready [to play today],” Kingsley said. “I just wanted to do whatever I could to help the team win.”
It certainly wasn’t the way he wanted his season to end either. Down just 7-0 early in the fourth quarter, Kingsley ran a read play to the left. With less than 12 minutes remaining in the game, CCSU has lost its starter.
“The shoulder came out and I was down,” Kingsley said.
But the stage didn’t appear to be too big for the sophomore and as he noted, there were times he rose to the occasion.
His first pass attempt, which also happened to be the team’s first offensive play, went for 41 yards down CCSU’s sideline to Jose Garcia and led the Blue Devils down to the Wildcats’ 7-yard line before a battle ball fell into the arms of a New Hampshire defender.
Kingsley finished his night completing 9 of his 16 passes for 118 yards and two interceptions. Both picks were on deflected balls. He also ran 10 times, his longest, a 12-yard gain, and was sacked three times.
“I didn’t think he played great, but I think he played well,” CCSU head coach Pete Rossomando said. “The ball was moving when he was out there. He took too many sacks, but that happens sometimes when a guy hasn’t seen a lot of drop-back passes in a season. He hasn’t played that much. He took some sacks, but that’s better than interceptions. I thought he played brave and ran the football hard against a defense that played pretty furiously.”
Without Kingsley, both running back Drew Jean-Guillaume and former Middletown High quarterback Tyshaun James bother took snaps for the Blue Devils. James didn’t attempt a pass, but ran for 21 yards. Jean-Guillaume attempted two passes, one of which was intercepted.
It left an interesting option for Rossomando as to whether to burn former Manchester High quarterback Edison Galan’s redshirt. In the end, he chose not to.
“You wanna win the game,” Rossomando said. “You’re in the playoffs and you wanna advance, but in the end, you also want to do what’s right for that kid.
“Me playing that kid in that half of that game wasn’t right for that young man. He’s expecting to redshirt. He was warming up, but we’re trying to develop a program and sometimes you have to do what’s right for the student-athlete.”
For the CCSU players in the post-game interview, Kingsley perhaps said it best about the team’s ending to its most successful season since 2010.
“We just came up a little short today,” Kingsley said.
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or email@example.com On Twitter: @DavidGlovach