NEW BRITAIN - Central Connecticut State head football coach Ryan McCarthy said leading up to Saturday’s matchup St. Francis (Pa) would be a tough out.
He was right.
Aaron Winchester threw a 21-yard pass to Kyren Petteway in overtime as No. 17/20 CCSU rallied past the upset-minded Red Flash 38-31.
“We sat in the huddle and said ‘let’s try to get Tyshaun [James] the ball on a switch route,’” Winchester said. “We know this guy requires a lot of attention and with that, other guys become wide open. When they switched, both their guys went with [James] and Kryen was wide open for a touchdown.”
The victory sets up the Blue Devils (8-1, 5-0), who have won six straight and tied a program record for wins, for an important matchup next weekend against Robert Morris (6-4, 5-0), which handed Duquesne its first NEC loss of the season. The two had been tied with CCSU atop the conference standings entering the day before the 41-21 rout.
“The first thing we’re going to have to do is put this win behind us tomorrow,” Blue Devils head coach Ryan McCarthy said. “They have 24 hours to enjoy it and then flush it. That’s going to be the big thing. Someone told me the Robert Morris score and I worked with Bernard Clark, their head coach, at Albany, and he’ll have them ready to play.”
St. Francis (4-6, 2-4) was certainly ready to play Saturday. The Red Flash outgained CCSU 434-367 in total offense and ran a dozen more plays as the two teams traded scores in the second half.
Jason Brown, who completed 35-of-52 passes for 355 yards, connected with Brandan Lisenby for a 17-yard touchdown at the 9:15 mark in the third quarter to open up the second-half scoring. Brown later found Ra’Shaun Henry for a 31-yard score and a late 31-28 lead with four minutes remaining.
But in between Brown’s touchdown passes and a 32-yard field goal from Trevor Thompson, Tyshaun James kept the Blue Devils in striking distance with a number of big plays.
The junior wide receiver to an end around 48 yards for into the end zone to answer Lisenby’s score, initially heading to the outside before cutting back into the middle of the field through the middle of the Red Flash defense to tie the score at 21-21. James later caught a 49-yard pass from Winchester after a Lisenby fumble that set up a 15-yard touchdown pass from quarterback to receiver with 8:52 remaining in the game to give CCSU a brief 28-24 lead.
James finished the game with 174 all-purpose yards (95 receiving, 48 rushing and 31 passing). Winchester, meanwhile, completed 18-of-24 passes for 205 yards.
“I just try to do what the coaches and my teammates ask of me,” said James, who now has 12 total touchdowns this season. “It’s not going to be my hands every play and I’m not going to get in the end zone every game and when I have the chance, I just try to get in the end zone.”
The Blue Devils had a chance to win the game after getting the ball back with 4:26 left in the fourth and drove down to the St. Francis 2-yard line, but the Red Flash were able to break through the offensive line on 3rd-and-goal and force Winchester to scramble around and throw the ball away. It set up Joe Zoppi's 19-yard field goal that sent the game into overtime.
CCSU linebacker Mike Mushaw ended the game after sacking Brown on 4th-and-5.
“We found ways to pull it out in the end,” McCarthy said.
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org