Easton, Bulldogs roll Dukes, 38-17, in front of record Homecoming crowd

Photo by: Dave Silverman
Photo by: Dave Silverman
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SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Junior quarterback Dalton Easton (Miami, Fla.) threw for a career-high 330 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Bryant University football team to a convincing 38-17 victory over Duquesne on Homecoming and Reunion Weekend Saturday in front of a Bulldog Stadium record-crowd of 8,364.

Playing at home for the first time in five weeks, the Bulldogs (3-3, 1-1 NEC) snapped a three-game losing skid and moved back to .500 in league play with their third-straight victory over the Dukes (4-3, 1-1).

The Black and Gold put up 38 points and 485 yards of total offense against a Duquesne defense that hadn't allowed over 20 points in a game all season and hadn't allowed over 400 yards of total offense all year.

Easton finished his career day 25-of-37 for 330 yards and four scores, becoming the first QB in program history to record four 300-yard passing games. Senior Ricardo McCray (Middletown, R.I.) chipped in his 11th career 100-yard game with 118 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. Bryant went 7-for-15 on third downs a week after converting just one in 13 chances.

Bryant continued its fast-start trend Saturday, jumping out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. After forcing a three-and-out on the first DU possession, the Bulldogs drove 54 yards in eight plays to get on the board first. Easton connected with Taylor Barthelette (East Longmeadow, Mass.) for 20 yards on third down to extend the drive and then hit Barthelette again for 16 to move the ball to the DU 10. A personal foul pushed the ball to the five and Easton capped the drive with a three-yard scoring strike to Chad Ward (Delray Beach, Fla.).

Junior Marquise Watson (Hillside, N.J.) and senior Abri Tate (Fort Mill, S.C.) then combined to sack Duquesne QB Dillon Buechel on third down to force the Dukes to punt on their second possession as well. Bryant went to work quickly as Easton hit sophomore Joe Fine (Cumberland, R.I.) in the flat and the fullback rumbled 61 yards down the sideline to the DU 9. The Bulldogs were unable to score on the next three plays but junior Ricky Perez (Miami, Fla.) knocked down a 24-yard field goal to complete the drive.

Bryant's lead would remain at 10 late into the first half as DU's Austin Crimmins missed a 33-yard field goal with 5:22 left in the second quarter. The Dukes, however, would score moments later. On 3rd-and-17, Easton was hit as he threw and DU LB Sam Martello intercepted the pass and returned it 42 yards for a touchdown to make it 10-7.

The Black and Gold were not deterred by the mishap and responded with a three-play, 65-yard scoring drive to close the half. McCray opened the drive with a blazing 49-yard run to put the ball at the DU 16 and Easton hit Barthelette in the corner of the endzone two plays later to make it 17-7 at the half.

Bryant picked up right where it left off in the second half, scoring on its first drive to extend the lead to 17. For the second-straight week, a fake punt kept the drive alive for Bryant as Watson called his own number on 4th-and-4 and picked up nine yards. Facing 3rd-and-5, Easton was able to find senior Jose Depadua (Frederick, Md.) over the middle and the speedster took it the rest of the way for a 22-yard scoring strike.

A Duquesne field goal with 14:12 remaining in the fourth quarter made it a two-score game but the Black and Gold responded immediately. Bryant came out firing as Easton completed passes to Ward (29 yards), Lavin (5 yards), Depadua (6 yards) and Barthelette (13 yards) to put the ball inside the DU 20. McCray then spun off an arm tackled and found the endzone from 17 yards out to make it 31-10.

Duquesne would score on a Wayne Capers 13-yard touchdown reception with 3:04 left but Bryant would take advantage of a botched onside kick to add a final score. The Bulldogs went for it on 4th-and-3 and Easton found Hunter Taute (Norfolk, Mass.) in the flat and the fullback broke a tackle and raced into the endzone for a 26-yard touchdown.

Watson returned to the Bulldogs after missing last week's game and led an inspired effort that held the Dukes to just 284 yards of total offense. Watson finished with 10 tackles and 1.5 sacks on the afternoon. Patrick Kenney (Camarillo, Calif.) added eight tackles and Tate finished with five tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks.

The Bulldogs return to Bulldog Stadium next Saturday, Oct. 24 to host Saint Francis U. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 p.m.