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Lafayette Opens 135th Season on Friday

Aug. 30, 2016

 Lafayette at Central Connecticut State
 Gameday Info Gameday
 Date  Friday, Sept. 2, 2016 at 6 p.m.
 Location  New Britain, Conn. | Arute Field
 Tickets  Lafayette Athletics Ticket Office
 Game Notes  Lafayette Get Acrobat Reader | Central Connecticut State Get Acrobat Reader
 TV  None
 Live Streaming  NEC Front Row
 Bruce Biel, Marc Robbins
 Live Stats  CCSU Live Stats
 Social Media  Twitter & Facebook


The Match-up: Lafayette opens the 135th season by making its first-ever trip to New Britain, Conn. to face the Central Connecticut State Blue Devils on Friday night. The Leopards are coming off a month-long training camp characterized by near record temperatures in the Lehigh Valley.

Early Opener: The Sept. 2 season opener is the second-earliest start date in program history. The Leopards opened in early October until the turn of the 20th century, in late September until 1970, and traditionally began the season on the second Saturday in September until 2002. Since 2002, Lafayette has opened on Sept. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 12 and 13 and the earliest opening date in Lafayette history, Sept. 1, 2007 against Marist.

'Cause It's Friday: The last time Lafayette played on a Friday was Oct. 3, 2014 at No. 16/19 Fordham. Prior to that, Oct. 14, 1977 was the last Friday game, as the Leopards played Penn at Franklin Field.

Open Up: Lafayette opens its 135th season at Central Connecticut State of the Northeast Conference, a foe it has played just twice previously. The Leopards have lost their last three openers (two vs. Sacred Heart and one against William & Mary). The last win in a season-opening game came against William & Mary on Sept. 8, 2012. All-time, the Leopards are 85-46-3 in openers.

The Series: Friday marks the third meeting between the two schools and the first ever contest in the Nutmeg/Constitution State. The previous two meetings were held in Easton in 1980 and 1981, with the teams splitting the matchups (LC 51-0 in 1981 and CCSU 14-3 in 1980).

2015: Lafayette finished the 2015 season 1-10 overall and 0-6 in the Patriot League, the school's first one-win season since 1963. Like the multiple factors that go into a successful season, there was no one reason why the Leopards struggled. Injuries, however, played a major role, as 40 members of the 90-man roster missed time. Twelve of 22 starters missed a minimum of two games during the season.

Front Four: The Lafayette coaching staff expects the front four to be the strength of the defense as three of four starters return. Senior DT Matt Rothrock enters his third season as a starter while senior DE Collin Albershardt and junior DE Beau Bosch begin their second seasons as starters. Senior Robin Cepeda started seven of the last eight games at tackle in 2015 and played in all 11. Senior Andy Labudev, a starter as a freshman, will battle with sophomore Andrew Chuma for time at the other tackle spot. Sophomores Lavel Ramsey and Dante Lonardo are expected to add depth.

The Captains: Four Lafayette seniors, three on defense and one on offense, have been selected to serve as the 2016 football team captains. It marks the third time in Frank Tavani's tenure (since 2000) that four players have been tabbed as the team's leaders (also in 2003 and 2014).

Collin Albershardt is entering his second season as a starter at defensive end, having been in the starting 11 for every contest as a junior. He played in 10 games as a sophomore and 12 games as a freshman. In 2015, he made 23 tackles and garnered CoSIDA Academic All-District II honors and FCS ADA All-Star Team recognition following a fall semester in which he posted a 3.75 GPA while majoring in Economics.

Draeland James begins his third season as a starter at safety. His 2015 campaign was cut short due to a pair of injuries, but he started eight (playing 10) and six (playing 12) games in his sophomore and freshman seasons, respectively. Like Albershardt, James is a standout in the classroom, as a three-time Patriot League Academic Honor Roll selection while majoring in Government & Law.

Matt Rothrock is coming off a 2015 season in which he earned All-Patriot League Second-Team honors and was the Defensive Line MVP. The Economics major begins his third season as a starter at defensive tackle, helping to anchor a front four that will be looked to for defensive production.

Like Rothrock, Connor Staudle is also a three-year starter. He was a Preseason All-Patriot League selection as a junior before a knee injury limited him to six games. As a sophomore, the Economics major was one of two offensive linemen who started every game.

In the Nation: LB Brandon Bryant had a stellar 2015 season by any measure, but his tackle numbers were what garnered national rankings and attention. Bryant was 23rd in the nation in total tackles (114), the most for a Lafayette player since Maurice Bennett in 2005 (133 in 12 games). He led the Patriot League and finished sixth in the nation in solo tackles per game (6.5). Bryant had six games in which he made 10 or more tackles, including a career-high 18 tackles at Delaware.

Mrazek's Camp: Junior WR Matt Mrazek was singled out by the Leopard coaching staff as having one of the most impressive performances at preseason camp of any of the returners. Mrazek, who was the team's wide receiver MVP in 2015, started seven of the eight games in which he played, missing the final three and a half after fracturing his clavicle in the Holy Cross game. Despite missing that time, he led the team in receiving yards (495) and had the second most catches on the team with 44.

Young Team: A quick look at the roster shows the youth of the team, as 34 players make up the senior (13) and junior (21) classes while sophomores (23) and freshmen (28) account for 51 of the team's 85 players.

The Opponent
• Central Connecticut State hosts the Leopards in both teams' season opener. The Blue Devils are coming off a 4-7 finish in 2015 when they wound up tied for third place in the Northeast Conference standings at 3-3. CCSU had wins over Bowie State, Bryant, Sacred Heart and Robert Morris with losses to Lehigh (20-14) Stony Brook, New Hampshire, Duquesne, Dartmouth, St. Francis and Wagner (28-7).
• The Blue Devils return seven starters on offense and nine on defense while welcoming back 60 letterwinners. Central Connecticut was picked to finish fifth in the NEC preseason poll behind Duquesne, Sacred Heart, St. Francis and Bryant and ahead of Robert Morris and Wagner.
• In 2015, the Central Connecticut State running game was led by Cameron Nash, an All-NEC Second-Team honoree as a sophomore and 2016 Preseason All-NEC selection as a junior. Nash ran for 676 yards and three touchdowns. He is battling with senior Brenden Lytton for the starting spot. Lytton missed the 2015 season with injury after running for 438 yards and four touchdowns in 2014. As a team, CCSU averaged 130 yards on the ground per game a year ago.
• Sophomore Jacob Dolegala returns under center after playing in 10 games as a freshman. He completed 87-of-161 for 1,021 yards and four touchdowns with seven interceptions.
• Senior Dan Hebert (22 rec, 4 TD's) and junior Joey Fields (19 rec., 2 TD's) are the top two returning pass catchers. Nash also showed himself to be a receiving threat, reeling in 18 balls with one touchdown for an offense which threw for 161.2 yards per game.
• Defensively, senior Asia Bolling is a threat from the defensive end spot, securing All-NEC First Team honors in 2015 and 2016 Preseason All-NEC recognition. Bolling had 64 tackles with 14.5 tackles for loss, including 4.5 sacks. Junior LB Randall LaGuerre is the team's top returning tackler, also garnering Preseason All-NEC honors. He finished with 92 tackles and 11.5 TFL. As a team, CCSU gave up 20.8 points and 328.3 yards per game in 2015.
• Central Connecticut State is coached by Pete Rossomando (Boston U. '94) who begins his third season as the head coach. He holds a 7-16 mark at the school and a 49-29 overall coaching record, including five seasons as the head coach at the University of New Haven.

Preseason Poll: In the 2016 Patriot League Preseason Poll, the Leopards, who had 19 points, were picked sixth behind Colgate (70 points,10 first-place votes), Fordham (63, 3) Holy Cross (47, 1), Lehigh (47) and Bucknell (31) and ahead of Georgetown (17).