Baxter scores first-career TD, Watson sets program tackles record as Bulldogs beat Colonials, 24-13

Photo by: DSPics.com
Photo by: DSPics.com
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SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Senior Mitchell Baxter (Cumberland, R.I.) caught his first-career touchdown pass with 10 minutes remaining and classmate Marquise Watson (Hillside, N.J.) became the program's all-time leader in tackles as the Bryant University football team defeated Robert Morris 24-13 on Senior Day at Beirne Stadium. 

With the win, the Bulldogs (4-5, 3-2 NEC) are guaranteed to finish .500 or better in league play in each of their first eight years in the conference. Bryant also improves to 7-2 all-time and a perfect 5-0 at home against the Colonials (2-8, 1-4).

Bryant's defense answered the bell all afternoon, holding RMU to just six first downs, a 1-for-15 conversion rate on third downs and to just 27 total passing yards. It is the first time since 2008 the Black and Gold has held a team to under 100 yards of total offense (Saint Francis) and it is the lowest passing total allowed since they held Saint Francis U. to just two passing yards in 2009.

Watson led the defense on Saturday, finishing his final game in Smithfield with six tackles to become Bryant's all-time leader in tackles. He needed just two tie the program record set by Jason Riffe (249) and now enters the final two games of his career with 253. Sophomore Thomas Costigan (Stamford, Conn.) added a team-high seven stops and freshman Tomas Wright (St. Augustine, Fla.) collected a career-high two sacks.

Senior Dalton Easton (Miami, Fla.) completed 18-of-28 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns, while classmate Taylor Barthelette (East Longmeadow, Mass.) made six catches for 93 yards. Easton's touchdown passes went to Baxter and junior Matt Sewall (Portsmouth, R.I.).

Senior Ricky Perez (Miami, Fla.) also had a big day for the Bulldogs, booting a 50-yard field goal while averaging 56.5 yards per kickoff. He also punted once for 32 yards, pinning the Colonials inside their own 5.

After leading for much of the afternoon, the Bulldogs found themselves down 13-10 with just under 13 minutes to play in the fourth quarter. Bryant's senior class then headlined a seven-play, 60-yard drive to get back on top. Easton opened the drive with an eight-yard scramble and then connected with Sewall for a 10-yard gain. Bryant then faced a third-and-10 from the RMU 31 and Easton fired a 26-yard strike to Barthelette to put the ball to the 5. Baxter then caught a five-yard TD pass from Easton on the ensuing play to make it 17-13 with 10:14 remaining.

Bryant's special teams unit then went to work. A 15-yard penalty forced the Bulldogs to kickoff from their own 20 instead of the 35 but Perez was unfazed, hammering a 75-yard kick that pinned the Colonials at their own 11. Perez was at it again on Bryant's next possession. Initially lined up to attempt a 52-yard field goal, Perez received the direct snap and pooched a punt down field that rolled inside the RMU 5 and was downed with 5:24 remaining.

The Black and Gold defense then made a big play to help put the game away. Senior Charles Wingate (Englewood, N.J.) intercepted Joe Carroll's pass and returned it to the RMU 4. Sophomore Brenden Femiano (Northport, N.Y.) then went into the endzone untouched on the first play of the drive to make it 24-13 with 4:38 remaining.

Bryant turned the ball over twice and snapped the ball over its punters head in the first half but was still able to take a 10-3 lead to the lockeroom. After a scoreless first 15 minutes, Sewall lined up next to Easton in the backfield on the first play of the second quarter. He received the pass in the flat, immediately headed up field and received three outstanding blocks as he raced down the sideline untouched for a 23-yard touchdown.

The Colonials would turn a Bryant turnover into a Connor Shennan field goal with 10:41 left in the second quarter before Perez answered with a field goal of his own. Bryant started its drive with 2:46 left in the half and pushed the ball all the way to the RMU 24 but a holding call derailed the drive. The Bulldogs elected to kick a field goal and Perez delivered a 50-yarder right through the posts. It was his second field goal this season of 50 or more yards.

Robert Morris came out in the second half and dominated the third quarter, outscoring the Bulldogs 10-0 to take its first lead of the afternoon. The Colonials first scoring drive of the quarter started with 7:48 left. Runs of 10, 14 and 18 pushed the ball to the Bryant 27 before a Costigan sack left the Colonials facing 4th-and-15 from the 32. RMU's 49-yard field goal attempt was no good but the Bulldogs were called for offsides. Given a second chance from five yards closer, Shennan drilled a 44-yard field goal to make it 10-6.

The Colonials special teams unit was also responsible for their own only touchdown of the afternoon. RMU's defense forced a quick three-and-out on Bryant's next possession and Gerald Ferguson broke through the line and blocked the punt. The ball bounced up perfectly and Ferguson scooped it up and scored to make it 13-10 with 1:56 left in the third quarter.

Carroll finished the game just 9-of-31 for 27 yards, while TJ Neal posted 34 yards on 12 carries. Joseph Uhatafe led the team with 11 tackles and two sacks, and Gee Stanley had four tackles, two tackles for a loss, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.

The Bulldogs will hit the road for the final two games of the regular season, starting with a trip to Conway, S.C., to take on Coastal Carolina next Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:00 p.m.