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ON CAMPUS A look at the area college sports scene

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

SCSU football off to worst start since 1990


NEW HAVEN — The last time the Southern Connecticut State football team started a season 0-3 was in 1990. The Owls actually went 0-4 that season before rebounding to finish the season 5-5.

SCSU coach Rich Cavanaugh probably wouldn’t sign for that finish now, but if things don’t turn around soon, this could be a forgettable season. Saint Augustine’s scored 30 unanswered points to knock off Southern 30-14, sending the Owls to their worst start since George H.W. Bush was president, before 3,007 in their home opener Saturday.
JJ Jablonski is tackled by a Saint Augustine defender

SCSU led 14-0 in the first quarter, but never scored again.

“We had the momentum at that point, but it wasn’t like we were fired up about it,” Cavanaugh said. “We have to learn to play for four quarters. We’re not there yet.”

The day began superbly for the Owls, who entered the game having scored a total of six points in their previous two setbacks. The Owls raced out to a two-touchdown lead as junior running back Vaughn Magee scored from a yard out and Jake Jablonski capped another impressive drive with a 6-yard pass to Jayson Holt, his first career touchdown.

But as promising as it began, that’s how quickly it deteriorated. For the third straight week, the Owls fizzled on both sides of the ball. And Saint Augustine’s pounced. The Falcons, who lost a gritty 24-21 decision to New Haven last week, scored 16 points before the half was over and never looked back.

“I just felt that we got into a rhythm in the first quarter and things were clicking, and then it was like they scored a touchdown and kind of packed our bags,” Jablonski said. “I’m not sure why. We just didn’t show up as a team. We didn’t show up in the second half. It’s shocking we didn’t score again.”

Quarterback Teddy Bacote got the Falcons’ offense going, connecting with Tyron Laughinghouse on a 57-yard score. Laughinghouse slipped through a missed tackle at the SCSU 40 and raced untouched the rest of the way for the score.

The Falcons then used a couple of big plays to set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Roderick Davenport, but they missed the extra point and still trailed 14-13. Undaunted, Saint Augustine capitalized on Jablonski’s second interception to take a 16-14 lead into the half on a 30-yard field goal by Michael Lima.

The Falcons’ defense then totally shut down Jablonski and company forcing three straight punts, and Saint Augustine’s finally capitalized on a 24-yard scoring pass from Bacote to Laughinghouse on the first play of the fourth quarter to extend the lead to 23-14.

SCSU had chances to reverse its fate, but consecutive drives ended deep in the red zone and in utter frustration.

After a 43-yard pass from Jablonski to Vito Fornarelli, Southern was set up with a first-and-goal on the Falcon 3-yard line. After two runs by Magee failed, Jablonski completed a pass to Jerome Cunningham, but the tight end slipped just before the goal line. Southern was stuck at the 1, and Jablonski was stuffed on the ensuing fourth-down keeper.

“That’s disappointing,” Cavanaugh said. “The ball’s inside the 1-yard line and we can’t get in.”

The Owls forced the Falcons to punt and again moved the ball into the red zone. But like last week, in a 13-0 loss at Stonehill, Southern again was denied for the second time in the game from inside the 10. Jablonski appeared to have a sure touchdown with a pass to Willie Epps in the corner of the end zone, but the ball hit Epps in the facemask after the talented wide receiver lost the ball in the sun.

“The game should have never come down to those plays,” Jablonski said. “You can’t blame Willie. You can’t blame the call. You can’t blame anything. We had opportunities, we just didn’t take advantage.

“There’s just a lot of other situations where we don’t have to punch it in from the 1 to stay in the game. If we make the plays, we could have been up three touchdowns.”

Southern was perhaps caught trying to force a fumble in the game’s final minute when Davenport broke through the middle of the SCSU defense for a 54-yard touchdown to close out the scoring.

Jablonski, who missed last week’s game due to a upper chest injury, finished 20-34 for 249 yards, but he started off 10-for-11. Magee went over the century mark for the second straight game, gaining 104 yards on 27 carries.

Bacote was 20 for 32 passing for 225 yards for the Falcons (2-1). Davenport finished with 87 yards on 12 carries.

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