Springfield, Mass. – Senior quarterback Caleb Gelsomino's 11-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter lifted visiting Bridgewater State University to a 21-17 victory on the road over New England power Springfield College on Saturday night at Stagg Field.
In the season opener for both teams, the Bears limited the Pride to 276 yards of total offense and just 229 yards on the ground. Last season, Springfield led all of Division III in rushing with just over 400 yards per game, and ranked ninth in total offense (473.3 ypg) and 17th in scoring (37.9 ppg).
Bridgewater State, which outgained Springfield 315-276 on the night, racked up 234 yards rushing and owned the time of possession battle by over 11 minutes (35:53 - 24:07).
Bridgewater State used a balanced attack of rushers, with four players having double-digit carries. Blaise Branch led the team with 63 yards, while quarterback Mike McCarthy rushed for 56 yards and a pair of first-half scores.
Gelsomino, who split time with McCarthy under center, went 3-for-5 passing for 55 yards to go along with his game-winning score. David Silvia led all players with 13 tackles, including nine solo, and teammate Dillon Huber-Parker notched ten stops of his own.
Austin Bateman led all rushers with 110 yards on the ground, including Springfield's first score of the evening. Mike Davis added 50 yards, including a 34-yard score, while James Poggio hauled in a 47 yard catch.
On the defensive side of the ball for the Pride, Mike Dublin tallied 12 tackles, and Joe Knaub added 10 stops. Sam Weiss made several spectacular plays in the secondary, forcing two fumbles while also recovering two fumbles.
The Bears opened up the scoring on a McCarthy two-yard run with 8:42 remaining in the opening quarter. The score capped off a 10-play, 61-yard drive which was helped by a pair of Springfield pass interference penalties both on third down.
Bridgewater threatened to find pay dirt on the first play of the second quarter, however Corey Kaiser forced a fumble on the four yard line, which was promptly recovered by Weiss in the end zone. The ensuing drive for the Pride lasted over seven minutes, going 72 yards on 16 plays. However, the Pride could not convert despite seven plays from inside the nine yard line, and a missed 25-yard field goal by Ricky Peacock kept the hosts off the board.
After the turnover, Bridgewater marched the ball 80 yards in 10 plays in 5:35. McCarthy once again found the back of the end zone, this time scampering up the middle from nine yards out with 1:56 left in the half, giving the Bears a 14-0 lead heading into the locker room.
Weiss provided the spark for the Pride once again as he ripped the ball away from Branch on the first play of the second half, giving the Pride great field position on the Bridgewater 27. Two plays later, Bateman got loose and scrambled down the left sideline from 22 yards out for Springfield's first touchdown of the year.
After the Pride defense forced a three and out, Davis took a pitch to the left and blew past several defenders to score from 34 yards out. After not scoring for the first 30 minutes of play, the Pride put 14 points on the board in 3:08 to even the game.
Springfield took its only lead of the evening on a 27 yard field goal by Peacock with 2:04 left in the third. Poggio's 47-yard snag brought the Pride inside the 10, but a penalty and three rushes totaling two yards set up the Peacock bid.
The visitors took the lead for good on a 90-yard, 10-play drive that lasted 5:30. Gelsomino rushed up the middle from 11 yards out nearly untouched with 11:43 left in regulation. The touchdown was set up a by a 40-yard completion to Adam Ledoux that brought the Bears inside Springfield's 30 yard line.
The Pride threatened late and had the ball on the Bridgewater State 48 yard line with 4th and one to go. However, Brodie Quinn was stuffed up the middle, and Springfield turned the ball over on downs for good with 4:56 to play. The Bears ran out of the final 4:56, as McCarthy converted three third downs on the ground to clinch the season-opening win.
Bridgewater will take on UMass Dartmouth in its home opener on Saturday at Swenson Field with a noontime start. Springfield will hit the road next Saturday when it heads north to square off against Husson. Kickoff is slated for 1:00 pm.
Notes: The game marked just the fourth meeting between the two teams and first since 1999. The 1999 Bears went 10-0 during the regular season including a 36-29 week one road win over the Pride.