BRIDGEWATER, Mass. –Junior quarterback Danny Higgins (Manahawkin, N.J.) threw for 187 and two touchdowns and added another 50 yards on the ground to lead the Bridgewater State University football team to a 34-27 victory over Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference rival Western Connecticut State University on Saturday afternoon at Swenson Field.
The host Bears improve to 3-2 on the season and 2-1 in the MASCAC, while the Colonials slip to 2-3 overall and 1-2 in conference play. Bridgewater is now 11-8 all-time versus Western Connecticut since the two teams first met back in 1971.
Higgins completed 12 of 22 passes and connected on scoring strikes of 20 and 26 yards. He also averaged ten yards on five rushing attempts.
Western Connecticut scored on their first two possessions of the game as the Colonials converted two BSU fumbles into ten points to take a 10-0 first quarter lead.
Western marched 97 yards on eight plays after a Higgins' red zone fumble with sophomore wideout William Andrew (Danbury, Conn.) hauling in a 46-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Will Arndt (Sandy Hook, Conn.).
The Bears fumbled at midfield on the ensuing possession and the Colonials turned the miscue into a 38-yard Michael Killoran (West Hartford, Conn.) field goal.
Bridgewater responded with a nine-play, 84-yard drive capped off by a Carlton Williamson (North Easton, Mass.) 32-yard touchdown run. Higgins then connected with sophomore receiver Travis Bassett (Littleton, Mass.) on a 20-yard touchdown pass to give the Bears the 13-10 lead (PAT was missed) with 11:03 remaining in the second quarter.
Junior placekicker Liam Murphy (South Hadley, Mass.) extended the BSU advantage to 16-10 with a 38-yard field goal. Killoran answered with a 33-yard field goal to make it a three-point game (16-13) with 1:38 left in half.
Williamson, however, returned the ensuing kickoff 77 yards for a touchdown as Bridgewater headed to halftime up 23-13. The play marked the Bears' first kickoff return for a touchdown since Chris Constantine ran one back 75 yards for a touchdown in 2010 (Oct. 16 vs. Worcester State). Constantine also had an 83-yard kickoff return for a touchdown earlier that season (Sept. 25 vs. Framingham State).
Murphy booted his second field goal of the day, this time from 40 yards out, on the Bears' opening possession of the third quarter to extend the lead to 26-13.
Western answered with an Arndt two-yard touchdown run as the Colonials marched 75 yards on eight plays to pull to within a score at 26-20.
Following three straight punts, Western took over on its own 12-yard line with 14:09 remaining in the fourth quarter. Three plays later, BSU senior linebacker Nicholas Salois(Warwick, R.I.) and senior safety David Console (Malden, Mass.) combined to force a fumble and the Bears recovered on the Western 26. Higgins quickly capitalized on the turnover as he found a wide open Malik Garrett (Dorchester, Mass.) for a 26-yard touchdown. Sophomore quarterback Alex McLaughlin (Littleton, Mass.) punched in the two-point conversion to give Bridgewater a commanding 34-20 lead with 13:16 left to play.
Later in the quarter, Western put together a 11-play, 72-yard drive resulting in a 13-yard touchdown pass from Arndt to senior wide receiver Jason Piontkowski (New London, Conn.) with 2:27 showing on the game clock.
Down 34-27 and with no timeouts, the Colonials attempted an onside kick, but were unsuccessful. The Bears were able to run out the clock and preserve the victory.
Williamson finished with 92 rushing yards and a touchdown to lead the Bridgewater ground attack. McLaughlin added 56 yards on eight carries as the Bears racked up 206 rushing yards and averaged 5.2 yards per carry.
Bassett finished with three catches for 48 yards and a score, while Garrett had two receptions for 46 yards and his touchdown.
In addition to his two field goals, Murphy also averaged 61.0 yards on seven kickoffs with five touchbacks.
Arndt amassed 360 yards of total offense for the Colonials as he completed 22 of 30 passes for 285 yard and two touchdown while also running for 75 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.
Senior wide receiver Connor Falaguerra (Milford, Conn.) caught seven passes for 61 yards, while Andrew had two catches for 81 yards and a score.
Salois and sophomore defensive end Emmanuel Omere (Bessemer, Ala.) paced the BSU defensive with ten tackles apiece. Omere also recorded 3 ½ tackles for loss, including a sack, and broke up a pass. Sophomore free safety Cameron Williamson (North Easton, Mass.) finished with seven tackles (six solo) and his first career interception to go along with a pass breakup.
Senior linebacker Kenneth Strecker (Uncasville, Conn.) led the Colonials with ten tackles (eight solo), while junior linebacker Brian Birdsell (Bethel, Conn.) added nine tackles (seven solo) and recovered two fumbles.
Next week, the Bears travel to UMass Dartmouth on Friday night for a seven o'clock MASCAC game with the Corsairs, while the Colonials entertain conference foe Mass. Maritime Academy on Saturday at noon.