Plymouth State Football stumbles at Salve Regina

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            MIDDLETOWN, R.I. – Junior Jimmy Connelly (Berlin, Conn.) threw a career-high three touchdown passes and senior Rob LaRiviere-Tougas (Easthampton, Mass.) scored a pair of TDs as Salve Regina University snapped a six-game losing to Plymouth State University with a 30-14 win in New England Football Conference (NEFC) action Saturday afternoon at Gaudet Field.

            The Seahawks racked up 209 yards of offense against the No. 1 ranked defense in the NEFC, including 152 on the ground, led by 109 from LaRiviere-Tougas. After averaging more than 200 yards rushing through their first eight contests, the Panthers were held to 92 yards on the ground and 170 yards of total offense.

            Junior A.J. Albert (Franklin Park, N.J.) led the defensive assault for Salve with 11 tackles and one fumble recovery while senior Nick Jentz (Little Ferry, N.J.) racked up seven tackles and 1.5 sacks.

            Connelly completed 8-of-11 passes to four different receivers, including a 29-yard touchdown strike to junior Patrick Keenan (Harrisville, R.I.) midway through the fourth quarter that put the Seahawks in front 30-7. The junior transfer also threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to LaRiviere-Tougas and a 37-yard touchdown pass to classmate Michael Dargan (Meriden, Conn.), giving him five touchdowns and zero interceptions in his last three games.

            The win extends the Seahawks win streak to four, matching their longest since 2000, and guarantees them at least a .500 record for the first time since 2001, when they finished 4-4. The Seahawks also picked up their first win over the Panthers since Nov 21, 1998 after having been outscored 182-35 during the losing streak to their visitors from the north.

            PSU dropped its second game in a row for the first time since losing three straight in October of 2006.  The Panthers fall to 6-3 overall and 4-2 in the NEFC Boyd Division.

            The Seahawks created the first the first turnover on the second play of the game when Albert recovered a fumble in PSU territory, but went three-and-out on offense. Plymouth State took over on its own two-yard line and marched 98 yards in 16 plays, capped by a six-yard touchdown run by sophomore Ty Long (Dover, N.H.), to take a 7-0 lead with 3:38 to go in the first.

            Salve Regina answered early in the second with a five-play, 51-yard drive that Tougas capped with a 28-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown. The PAT attempt was blocked, however, which kept PSU in front 7-6. The Seahawks defense then forced another three-and-out and took possession at the PSU 46-yard line. The drive appeared to stall at the PSU 38, but the Seahawks faked a punt and the ball ended up in the hands of junior Brian Smith (Tarrytown, N.Y.), who scampered 26 yards for a first down. LaRiviere-Tougas carried the Seahawks the rest of the way, picking up the final 12 yards of the drive that ended with a five-yard touchdown run to put SRU in front 12-7 (missed PAT), which is how the half ended.

            The turning point of the game came with PSU facing a fourth-and-nine from its own nine-yard line early in the third quarter. Sophomore Nick Provost (Stratham, N.H.) lined up to punt, but Salve Regina freshman Tyler Colby (Easton, Conn.) got his hand on the ball and blocked the kick. Classmate Michael Gangitano (Coram, N.Y.) pounced on the loose ball in the endzone for a touchdown that gave the Seahawks an 18-7 lead (missed PAT) and their third defensive touchdown in 2010. Later in the quarter, Connelly threw a short pass to Dargan that went for a 37-yard touchdown and put the home team in front 24-7 with 6:22 to go in the third.

            Salve put the game away in the fourth quarter as Keenan caught his only pass of the game for his fourth touchdown of the season that stretch Salve Regina's lead to 30-7. Freshman Josh Morgan (Foster, R.I.) – who replaced PSU starting QB J.J. Brooks (Seabrook, N.H.) behind center in the second half – tossed a 30-yard scoring strike to Brooks with 6:22 remaining to close the scoring.

            Both teams close out the regular season next Saturday, Salve hosting Nichols College at Gaudet Field at noon and PSU returning home to entertain Curry College, also at noon. 

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