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Bulldogs battle hard, fall to No. 15 Coastal Carolina, 31-21

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CONWAY, S.C. – The Bryant University football team took a lead to the fourth quarter but a pair of Osharmar Abercrombie touchdowns allowed No. 15 Coastal Carolina to come away with a 31-21 victory on Saturday afternoon at Brooks Stadium.

Playing the nationally-ranked Chanticleers (8-2) for the second-straight season, the Bulldogs (4-6) gave all it had for the second-straight year. Bryant was tied with Coastal Carolina at the half last year and held a 21-16 lead after three quarters on Saturday afternoon.

The Bulldogs posted 289 yards of total offense and went 9-for-14 on third downs on the afternoon. Senior Dalton Easton (Miami, Fla.) completed 21-of-38 passes for 230 yards and three touchdowns, becoming Bryant's all-time leading passer in the process. The Black and Gold, however, were held to just 59 yards on the ground.

Coastal Carolina, on the other hand, used a dominant running game to pull out the win in the second half. The Chanticleers, who trailed 14-9 at the half, rushed for 246 of their 293 yards in the second half. Abercrombie finished with 114 yards and two scores on 11 carries, All-American D'Angelo Henderson rushed for 98 yards and two scores on 20 carries and Ryan Lee added 63 yards on 10 carries.

With the Bulldogs leading 21-16 in the fourth quarter, Abercrombie took over the game. After not having played much of the first half, Abercrombie made his presence known with a 46-yard touchdown run to give the Chants a 24-21 lead with 13:45 left in the game.

Coastal Carolina's defense then made a huge stop on Bryant's next possession. A 15-yard horse collar moved Bryant to the Coastal 35 and the Bulldogs eventually pushed the ball to the Coastal 26. The Chanticleers stopped the Bulldogs on 3rd-and-1 but as Bryant brought its field goal unit out, a flag was thrown and the Bulldogs were assessed a 15-yard penalty. The penalty put them out of field goal range and the Black and Gold were forced to punt.

Abercrombie was then the driving force in Coastal Carolina's game-clinching 15-play, 87-yard drive that took 8:07 off the clock. Starting at their own 13, the Chanticleers converted on third down three times during the drive. Abercrombie carried the ball eight times on the drive, picking up a big run of 29 yards, a four-yard gain on 3rd-and-4 and then a 10-yard TD run to make it 31-21 with 2:16 remaining.

Bryant took the early lead in the game with one of the best drives in Division I history. The Bulldogs received the opening kickoff and proceeded to drive 77 yards in 16 plays and take 8:34 off the clock. Bryant went 4-for-4 on third down during the drive including a 17-yard reception by junior Aaron Aryee (Hartford, Conn.) on 3rd-and-12. A pass interference moved the ball to the Coastal side of the field and Aryee made another catch, a nine-yarder on 3rd-and-8 to put the ball at the Coastal 10. Three plays later, Easton fired to senior Keenan Thompson (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) and the senior made a man miss before diving into the corner of the endzone.

Coastal would score the next nine points to take its first lead of the game. The Chanticleers took advantage of a muffed punt, recovering the loose ball at the Bryant 5. Henderson pounded it into the endzone on the very first play to make it 7-6. It was just the third first-quarter TD allowed all season by the Bulldogs. The Chanticleers then took the lead with a 25-yard field goal in the second quarter.

Bryant answered with a 16-play, 83-yard drive that took 6:46 off the clock to regain the lead before the half. Redshirt-freshman Jean Constant (Delray Beach, Fla.) picked up 18 yards on third down to move the chains, junior Matt Sewall (Portsmouth, R.I.) made a 13-yard grab on 3rd-and-12 and senior Taylor Barthelette (East Longmeadow, Mass.) made an 11-yard catch on 3rd-and-9. Classmate Mitch Baxter (Cumberland, R.I.) made an 11-yard catch on third down to put the ball inside the 15 and Easton found junior Joe Fine (Cumberland, R.I.) wide open in the back of the endzone to make it 14-9 with 1:44 left in the half.

The Chanticleers retook the lead on their first possession of the second half with a 13-play drive that featured 12 run plays. Henderson capped the drive with a one-yard TD run.

Bryant and Coastal Carolina then traded turnovers, with junior Pat Champagnie's (Boston, Mass.) intercpetion leading to seven points. Champagnie's first-career interception gave the Bulldogs the ball at the Coastal 25. On Bryant's first play, Easton lofted a pass downfield that Barthelette caught with his fingertips and then dove into the endzone in one motion to give Bryant a 21-16 lead.

Easton's 230 passing yards give him 7,072 in his career. He surpassed the previous record of 6,984 held by Charlie Granatell since 2007. Easton also set a single-season record for passing touchdowns with 24. Defensively, freshman Jesse Nemerowicz (Hudson, Mass.) led Bryant with 11 tackles, giving him 82 on the year. Senior Andrew Barton (Ridgefield, Conn.) added a career-high nine stops and sophomore Danny Hughes (Shoreham, N.Y.) intercepted his third pass of the season.

The Bulldogs wrap up their season next Saturday when they visit Northeast Conference rival Sacred Heart. Kickoff is scheduled for noon in Fairfield, Conn., and the game will be broadcast on ESPN3.