BRIDGEWATER, Mass. – Senior quarterback Danny Higgins (Manahawkin, N.J.) threw for 314 yards and three touchdowns while becoming the school's all-time passing leader as the Bridgewater State University football team held on for a 34-25 victory over Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) rival Fitchburg State University on Friday night at Swenson Field.
The Bears improve to 2-2 on the season and 2-0 in the MASCAC, while the visiting Falcons fall to 2-2 overall and 0-2 in conference play.
Higgins helped stake Bridgewater to a 27-7 halftime lead as he threw each of his three touchdown passes over the first two quarters.
The Falcons took a 7-0 lead on the opening possession of the game as they drove 81 yards on seven plays capped off by an 11-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Garrett Dellechiaie (Leominster, Mass.) to freshman wideout Jesse Brown (Yonkers, N.Y.).
The Bears knotted the score later in the quarter as Higgins connected with junior back Malik Garrett (Dorchester, Mass.) on a five-yard touchdown pass. The ten-play, 48-yard drive was highlighted by a 17-yard reception by junior running back Alex McLaughlin (Littleton, Mass.). The Bears also converted three times on third down during the drive including the touchdown pass.
The second quarter was all Bridgewater as Higgins connected on a pair of scoring strikes and McLaughlin added a 15-yard touchdown run.
A Higgins to Travis Bassett (Littleton, Mass.) 16-yard touchdown with 6:35 left in the period capped off a seven-play, 85-yard drive and gave the Bears a 14-7 lead. McLaughlin's touchdown run with 3:01 showing on the scoreboard put the finishing touches on a five-play, 54-yard drive. Higgins hooked up with sophomore wideout Jack Lavanchy (Walpole, Mass.) on a 21-yard touchdown pass with 1:10 remaining to cap off the first half scoring. The Bears moved 60 yards in just 49 seconds on the final scoring drive of the first half.
With the 21-yard touchdown pass, Higgins surpassed Mike McCarthy as the Bears' all-time passing leader. McCarthy threw for 4,672 yards in four seasons with the Bears from 2010 to 2013. Higgins would finish the day with 4,777 career passing yards.
The Fitchburg defense responded in the second half as the Falcons kept the BSU offense off the scoreboard.
Sophomore quarterback James Antonelli (Westford, Mass.) found Brown in the end zone from five yards out with 3:18 remaining in the third quarter to pull the Falcons to within two scores at 27-13. With 5:09 left to play in the fourth, junior receiver Ben Sattiewhite (Salem, Mass.) corralled a deflected pass from 20 yards out to make it a 27-19 game. Both PATs, however, were no good including one that was blocked by BSU junior Cristian Rivera (Lawrence, Mass.).
After stopping the Bears on the ensuing possession, the Falcons took over at their own 12-yard line with 2:08 remaining. Following a pass interference penalty, Antonelli was picked off by junior linebacker Charles McCarthy (North Reading, Mass.) who returned the interception 22 yards for a touchdown and a 34-19 BSU lead with just 1:54 showing on the clock.
A 34-yard touchdown pass from Antonelli to sophomore receiver Herbert Acosta (Los Angeles, Calif.) with just three seconds remaining rounded out the scoring and accounted for the final score of 34-25.
McLaughlin finished with 113 yards on the ground as he became the 14th player in program history to reach the 1,500-yard rushing milestone. McLaughin now has 1,550 yards and 24 rushing touchdowns in just three seasons with the Bears.
Lavanchy finished with seven catches for 93 yards, while senior receiver Dukens Léon (Paris, France) hauled in eight receptions for 91 yards. Bassett, who finished with four catches for 46 yards, passed Jesse Teixeira (1,474 yards) for sixth place on the Bears' all-time receiving yardage list.
Bridgewater finished with 430 yards of total offense with 313 of those yards coming in the first half. The Bears went 8-for-18 on third down for the game, but just 2-for-9 over the last two quarters
For the Falcons, Antonelli came off the bench to complete 16 of 31 passes for 230 yards and three touchdowns, while Acosta had six catches for a game-high 116 yards.
Senior linebacker A.J. Pascuzzo (Wallingford, Conn.) led the way for the BSU defense, registering five tackles (four solo) including a pair of tackles for loss. McCarthy added five solo stops with one for loss to go along with his game-clinching pick-six. Senior defensive tackle Emmanuel Omere (Bessemer, Ala.) chipped in with 3 1/2 tackles for loss, a pair of sacks and two pass breakups. Omere has seven sacks through the first four games of the season.
Bridgewater's defense held the Falcons to just 22 rushing yards on 25 attempts. The Bears also forced a pair of turnovers, registered four sacks and nine tackles for loss, and stopped the Falcons on 13 of 18 (72%) third down conversion attempts.
Defensively for Fitchburg State, senior linebacker Tre Watson (Worcester, Mass.) finished with seven solo tackles and one for loss, while classmate Ousmane Samb (Pawtucket, R.I.) added seven solo tackles, one tackle for loss and a fumble recovery.
The two teams combined for 19 punts in the game. Fitchburg senior Christopher Ludwig(Fort Myers, Fla.) averaged 39.9 yards on 11 punts with five inside the 20. For the Bears, Higgins and McLaughlin combined to average 39.4 yards on eight punts with three inside the 20.
The MASCAC schedule continues for both teams on Saturday, October 1st. The Bears travel to Western Connecticut State University for a six o'clock game with the Colonials, while the Falcons entertain the Buccaneers of Massachusetts Maritime Academy at noon.
Notes: The Bears improve to 25-7 all-time versus the Falcons including a 13-3 mark at home.