Leopards Pull Away From CCSU in Opener
NEW BRITAIN, Conn. Drew Reed connected with Matt Mrazek for all three of Lafayette's touchdowns as the Leopards pulled away from Central Connecticut State for a 24-10 victory on Friday night at Arute Field.
Reed was 31-of-42 for 316 yards and three touchdowns, while Mrazek reeled in six catches for 93 yards in the season-opening victory. Two of the scores came in the fourth quarter.
The Leopards, who did not commit a turnover, forced five Central Connecticut State turnovers in the game and four in the first quarter.
Lafayette led 10-0 after the first 15 minutes. On CCSU's first drive, LB Brandon Bryant popped the ball loose from the ball carrier near midfield and the Lafayette offense did the rest, covering 62 yards on nine plays. Reed looked sharp from the beginning, completing six of seven passes to three different receivers on the initial drive. The final completion was an 18-yard touchdown strike to the outstretched arms of Mrazek.
The defense continued to force turnovers. Safety Draeland James picked off a pass at midfield and returned it 27 yards. The offense settled for a 35-yard Jacob Bissell field goal and a 10-0 lead with 7:31 left in the first.
The Leopards, clad in white jerseys and white pants, continued to force turnovers. Sophomore CB Izaiah Avent, in the first start of his career, picked off a pass deep in Leopard territory. Classmate Jerry Powe followed suit, taking on a blocker out wide, forcing a fumble after the catch and then recovering on the sideline just before the end of the first quarter.
When the Blue Devils got the ball back, they started at their own 26-yard line. CCSU marched to the Lafayette two-yard line before ending up with a 19-yard yard field goal attempt by Ed Groth that missed.
After a three-and-out by the Leopards, CCSU's Najae Brown ran back a punt for a TD, but the score was nullified by a holding penalty. The Blue Devils took over at the Lafayette 27-yard line after the return. A 43-yard field goal by Groth cut the Leopard lead to 10-3 with 5:26 left in the half.
Just before intermission, Lafayette used its three timeouts and forced a CCSU punt. The Leopards took over at their own 48 with 39 seconds left. The offense picked up 20 yards on a Reed to Yasir Thomas toss that allowed Bissell to attempt a 46-yard field goal. The kick missed wide right and Lafayette led 10-3 at halftime.
Three minutes into the second half, CCSU missed another scoring opportunity. Jacob Dolegala found Dan Hebert for a 35-yard completion to the Lafayette 41-yard line. The Blue Devils attempted a 37-yard field goal, but the snap was high and the kick was no good. Andy Labudev registered his first sack of the season on the drive and pushed the attempt back five yards.
Ryan Forrester's second punt of the third quarter gave Central the ball back with six minutes left in the third. Dolegala eluded pressure and hit Alex Jamele in the corner of the end zone as Jamele wrestled the ball from the Lafayette defender to knot the game at 10-10.
Lafayette's next offensive possession started deep inside Leopard territory at the 11-yard line. A 21-yard toss from Reed to Joey Chenoweth underneath gave Lafayette some room to operate. The lengthy drive continued for 12 more plays before Reed found Mrazek near the goal line. Mrazek broke one tackle and stretched the ball across the goal line to propel Lafayette to a 17-10 lead with 12:53 left in the game.
The Leopard defense continued to make plays when it was needed most. Collin Albershardt sacked Dolegala for nine yards and another offensive miscue led to a punt.
The offense capitalized on the momentum, covering 61 yards on nine plays to put away the hosts. Reed completed five passes on the drive that also featured a pair of runs each by C.J. Amill and DeSean Brown. The final play, Reed to Mrazek for 15 yards, ran the final to 24-10.
Defensively, Powe led the team with 10 tackles while Michael Root added nine and Phillip Parham eight. The defense held CCSU to 85 rushing yards and 354 yards of total offense. Lafayette managed 22 rushing yards and 338 total yards while sporting a 10-minute advantage in time of possession.
Lafayette begins its home slate on Sept. 10 at 6 p.m., hosting Delaware.