Football's rally falls short Saturday

Photo by: Tom O'Brien
Photo by: Tom O'Brien

SMITHFIELD, R.I. – The Bryant University football team scored a pair of touchdowns just a minute apart in the fourth quarter but its comeback bid fell short as Saint Francis U. held on for a 23-20 victory Saturday afternoon at Bulldog Stadium.

The Bulldogs (4-6, 2-3 NEC) trailed 23-7 with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter and had the ball at midfield with 1:45 left but an interception halted their rally. The Red Flash (4-5, 2-2) have now won back-to-back games against the Black and Gold.

In a defensive battle that featured 16 punts, it was the Red Flash that won the turnover battle, intercepting three passes and recovering a fumble on their way to victory. It marked the second-straight week that the Bulldogs have turned the ball over at least four times.

On Saturday, SFU used a pair of big plays to set up its first score. Max Ward connected with Dane Domonkos for 52 yards on the first play of the game for the Red Flash and Anthony Abeid took a reverse to the Bulldog one-yard line on the very next play to set up Kyle Harbridge's touchdown plunge.

Both defenses stood tall for the next quarter and a half before another big play from the Red Flash opened up the game. On third-and-six from his own 34, Harbridge, the nation's second-leading rusher, broke two tackles and raced 66 yards down the near sideline to make it 14-0 with 6:20 left in the second quarter.

With its offense stalling for a majority of the first half, Bryant used a defensive play to finally break onto the scoreboard. Junior Sam Sammons (Cypress, Texas) intercepted Ward's pass at the SFU 15 and returned it to the one-yard line. Sophomore Ryan Black (Joppa, Md.) punched it in on the next play to make it 14-7.

SFU responded immediately, driving 63 yards in eight plays to score with just 21 seconds left in the half. Domonkos hauled in a 22-yard pass and a roughing the passer penalty on the Bulldogs moved the ball to the 15-yard line. Two plays later Anthony Bowman rumbled in from 10 yards out to make it 20-7.

The teams followed with a scoreless third quarter only to finish with a scintillating fourth quarter. Brandon Small's second interception of the afternoon gave SFU the ball at its own 31 just 40 seconds into the fourth quarter. Harbridge then took a dump-off 44 yards on third-and-10 before Lance Geesey knocked down a 29-yard field goal to make it 23-7.

It appeared to wake up the Black and Gold as they began their comeback on the very next drive. Senior Mike Westerhaus (Farmingville, N.Y.) connected on consecutive passes to sophomore Chad Ward (Delray Beach, Fla.), freshman Taylor Barthelette (East Longmeadow, Mass.) and senior Jordan Harris (Lincoln University, Pa.) for gains of 12, 12 and 36, respectively. A personal foul put Bryant inside the 10 but Westerhaus was sacked on second down and forced out of the game. Freshman Christopher Schultz (Bethesda, Md.) was summoned and didn't miss a beat. On the very next play, he stayed in the pocket long enough to find sophomore tight end John Lavin (Falmouth, Mass.) in the flat for an 11-yard touchdown. It was the first pass attempt, first pass completion and first passing touchdown in Schultz's career. It was also the first-career touchdown reception for Lavin.

The Bulldogs defense did its job on the next drive, forcing a three-and-out from the Red Flash. Back in the game, Westerhaus quickly led the Bulldogs back down the field and into the endzone. He completed a 27-yard pass to Harris and then found Ward in the back of the endzone for a 25-yard touchdown completion to make it 23-20.

Using the momentum, Bryant's defense once again got the ball back with 2:36 remaining. Westerhaus immediately hit Ward for 12 yards and a roughing the passer gave the Bulldogs the ball at the 43. Two plays later, however, Westerhaus's pass hit off the hands of Harris and fell into the lap of Michael Dennis for the interception. SFU was then able to run out the clock and clinch the victory.

Westerhaus finished the afternoon 19-of-35 for 237 yards and a touchdown. Ward caught a career-high eight passes for 99 yards and a touchdown and Harris caught five passes for 95 yards. Sammons led the defense with eight tackles and junior Jeff Covitz (Reading, Mass.) finished with seven tackles and tied a program-record with five tackles for a loss. He also picked up a sack, moving him into a tie for second all-time in program history with 19.5.

The Bulldogs return to Bulldog Stadium next weekend when they host Monmouth on Senior Day. The Black and Gold will honor their senior class prior to the 12:00 p.m. kickoff.