DANBURY, Conn. -- The Bridgewater State University football team earned a tough 20-14 win over Massahusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) foe Western Connecticut State University on Saturday evening at the Western Athletic Complex.
The Bears improve to 3-2 on the season and 3-0 in the MASCAC with their third straight win. Losers of four straight, the Colonials fall to 1-4 overall and 0-3 in conference play.
Stephen Jacobs recorded eight tackles, including one for loss, and blocked a field goal to pace the Bears' defense. Olubiyi Ojo added six solo tackles with three for loss, while Emmanuel Omere tallied four solo tackles with a sack and three stops for loss to go along with a key fumble recovery.
Omere opened the scoring at the 9:26 mark of the first quarter as he recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown to give the Bears a 7-0 lead.
Later in the quarter after the two teams exchanged punts, Western drove 67 yards on six plays capped off by a 29-yard touchdown pass from Quinn Fleeting to Bobby Durham.
A two-yard touchdown run by Dukens Leon on fourth and goal capped off a 15-play, 73-yard drive as the Bears reclaimed the lead, 14-7, with 4:20 remaining in the second quarter.
The Colonials could have cut into the deficit with a 75 seconds left to play before halftime, but Jordan D'Onofrio missed a 25-yard field goal.
Bridgewater extended the advantage to 20-7 on their first possession of the second half as McLaughlin rushed for a 16-yard touchdown. The drive started on the 20-yard line as the Bears moved the ball 80 yards on ten plays. The extra point attempt, however, was blocked.
Western pulled to within 20-14 with 2:42 remaining in the third quarter as Fleeting connected with Austin Calamita on a 53-yard scoring strike.
Western got the ball right back as Michael Washington intercepted a Danny Higgins' pass at the 47-yard line and returned the ball eight yards to the BSU 45. The Colonials, however, were unable to take advantage of the turnover. The ensuing drive stalled at the 13-yard line and Jacobs blocked D'Onofrio's 30-yard field goal attempt.
The Colonials forced a punt and got the ball back at their own 44-yard line with 11:27 left to play in the fourth quarter. On third down and 25 following back-to-back penalties, Fleeting hooked up with Calamito on a 49-yard catch and run to move the ball down to the BSU 11. Western was unable to score, however, as the next four plays resulted in a two-yard run and three incomplete passes.
After taking over on downs at their own nine, the Bears were unable to get untracked offensively. A pair of incomplete passes were followed by another Washington interception at the BSU 23.
The Bridgewater defense was up to the task once again. After giving up a first down, the Bears stopped the Colonials on three straight plays, setting up a big fourth down. On the fourth down play, A.J. Pascuzzo forced Fleeting to get rid of the ball as he was falling down and Cameron Williamson picked off the pass in front of the goal line to end the threat.
Taking over with 3:30 showing on the scoreboard, McLaughlin and Malik Garrett combined to rush for 23 yards and a pair of first downs on five carries to run out the clock and secure the win for the Bears.
Higgins completed 19 of 36 pass attempts for 168 yards, but also threw a pair of ill-advised interceptions. Higgins has now thrown for 4,945 yards for his career as he closes in on the 5,000-yard milestone.
The Bridgewater defense held the Colonials to a 3-for-14 third down conversion rate. The Bears forced two turnovers, notched ten tackles for loss and recorded a defensive touchdown.
Calamita led all receivers with four catches for 128 yards. Quinn completed 14 of 28 passes for 222 yards and a pair of touchdowns for the Colonials. Western's rushing attack was led by Kyle McKinnon who amassed 67 yards on 17 carries.
The MASCAC schedule continues for both teams next weekend. The Bears host UMass Dartmouth on Friday night at seven, while the Colonials travel to Mass. Maritime Academy on Saturday for a noontime game with the Buccaneers.