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ON CAMPUS A look at the area college sports scene

Saturday, November 12, 2011

SCSU falls in season finale

NEW HAVEN – For all the talk about playoffs and their confusing scenarios, the Southern Connecticut State football team knew that the entirety of the discussion was moot if the Owls couldn’t beat Merrimack in its season finale on Saturday.
And for the majority of the game Southern seemed to be taking care of business at hand until they just wore out.
Merrimack’s high-octane offense ran an astounding 100 offensive plays to rally past Southern 28-27 in a Northeast-10 Conference game at Jess Dow Field Saturday. There is no need to check the playoff pairings when they’re announced today. The Owls, who entered the weekend ranked eighth in the Division II Super Regional 1 poll, won’t be among the field of six.
“It’s really tough. We had goals of making the playoffs but we just didn’t finish,” SCSU running back Rashaad Slowley said.
Southern appeared to have taken control of things early in the second half. They led 24-14 at the break and following a 33-yard field goal by Chris Hazelton the bulge was 27-14. But surprisingly Southern never scored again.
“We really couldn’t sustain any drives in the second half,” SCSU coach Rich Cavanaugh said. “Because of that we wore down a bit on defense. That was a big problem. We weren’t really able to control the tempo of the game and keep their offense off the field.
“That was something that I thought we needed to do to be successful.”
Slowley, who finished the year with a school-record 29 touchdowns, scored on runs of 45 and 63 yards in the first half. He finished with 219 yards rushing on 27 carries. (He ended with 1,584 yards rushing for the season). Southern also got a 16-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown by Kyle Mgaresh to open the scoring.
“I’m more of team guy,” Slowley said. “My goals are to stay safe, win the game and then comes any individual goals. I’m safe but we didn’t win the game and that’s what matters.”
The Owls (7-3, 6-2 NE-10) kept moving the ball and piling up the yardage until Merrimack seemed to figure things out defensively. And when Southern receivers dropped a couple of passes in the second half things went south in a hurry.
Merrimack (6-4, 5-3) entered the game the conference’s leading scoring team averaging over 41 points a game. The Chargers, who thought they’d be in the playoff chase themselves before suffering a couple of late-season losses, got a pair of touchdown passes from James Suozzo to Steve Serwon. The first tied the score at 7-7 and the final one capped the day’s scoring.
In between Jimon Hill (25 carries, 127 yards) scored on a 16-yard run and Suozzo, who threw for 262 yards and ran the ball 30 times for 46 yards, scored a crucial touchdown late in the third quarter on a 6-yard run. That touchdown was set up by a long Charger punt return after Southern had stopped two Merrimack drives deep in the red zone.
Said Cavanaugh: “We knew they had a good kicking game. We emphasized that to the guys during the week and we did a pretty good job most of the game. That one return put them in good field position and that hurt.”
SCSU quarterback Kevin Lynch finished 10 for 29 for 156 yards but had two TD passes dropped in the end zone or his numbers would have been better. He leaves the school as the standard-bearer in several categories.
In all 18 seniors played their last game at Southern, a group that won 27 games.
“It’s a tough situation anytime you lose your last game,” Cavanaugh said. “They’re a great group of seniors and they showed great leadership. They showed great character. They’re going to be some tough guys to replace.”

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