SMITHFIELD, R.I. – During his introductory press conference in January, newly christened Bryant University football head coach James Perry urged everyone to come out and watch the Bulldogs play the game of football in a very fast and exciting way.
Anyone who watched the Black and Gold play football this fall saw exactly that. Perry and the Bulldogs enjoyed a historic season in 2017, one that ended with a winning record for the first time since 2014, numerous Northeast Conference accolades and two All-Americans.
The 2017 Season
Perry entered his first season as the head coach of the Black and Gold with the daunting task of facing one of the most challenging five-game stretches in program history.
Bryant opened the season at home against former DII foe Merrimack and Black and Gold fans got a very quick introduction to what it was going to mean to play fast. The Bulldogs ran 77 plays, racked up 555 yards of total offense and racked up a DI program-record 49 points in a thrilling victory over the Warriors.
The Perry era had officially begun.
Bryant's tough non-conference was just beginning as the next four weeks would see the Black and Gold face CAA-member Maine in Orono, local rival Brown in Providence, Patriot League power Fordham at home and nationally-ranked New Hampshire on the road.
The Bulldogs found mixed results over the four-game stretch, falling to Maine and Brown before defeating the Rams at home.
In defeat, Bryant ran a program-record 102 plays on offense and redshirt-junior QB Price Wilson (Marietta, Ga.) completed a program-record 37 passes.
More records fell the following week against Fordham as the Bulldogs rallied from 11 down in the third quarter to defeat the Rams. Bryant racked up a program-record 608 yards of total offense, with 393 of those coming from the arm of Wilson, also a program record.
Over the course of the next four weeks, however, things weren't going the way the Black and Gold wanted them to. A loss to nationally-ranked New Hampshire was followed by back-to-back NEC losses to Saint Francis U and Central Connecticut.
But when things seemed bleak for those watching on the outside, things were trending upwards inside the Bryant locker room. The Bulldogs never faltered on the Sunday following games and continued to practice the way that Coach Perry had preached from day one.
What followed after Bryant's visit to Central Connecticut was a thrilling four-game winning streak to end the season. The Bulldogs started the streak on Staten Island with a 31-16 victory over Wagner. Redshirt sophomore Jean Constant (Delray Beach, Fla.) scored three touchdowns and junior Thomas Costigan (Stamford, Conn.) made 11 tackles, two sacks and four tackles for a loss on the afternoon.
The next weekend, Bryant used a 20-point third quarter to earn a scintillating 48-45 victory over rival Sacred Heart on national TV. Wilson threw an NEC-record six touchdown passes, with three going to senior Tom Kennedy (Farmingdale, N.Y.). Constant added two more touchdowns, with his five-yard TD reception giving Bryant an 18-point lead in the third.
Three sacks from Costigan and 192 rushing yards propelled the Bulldogs to a 42-17 victory over Robert Morris the following weekend in Moon Township. Bryant received rushing touchdowns from senior Jake Wiswall (Great River, N.Y.), redshirt freshman Alfred Dorbor (Pawtucket, R.I.) and Wilson.
Bryant finished its season with a nail-biter with Duquesne. Trailing by six in the fourth quarter, the Black and Gold scored touchdowns just over three minutes apart and then held on for a 39-28 victory. Senior Matt Sewall (Portsmouth, R.I.) made an incredible catch on a fourth-down throw and then capped the drive with an 11-yard TD reception to give Bryant the lead. Wiswall then added some insurance with a two-yard TD run.
The victory gave Bryant a final record of 6-5 overall and 4-2 in NEC play. Bryant finished with a winning record for the first time since 2014 and closed the season with four-straight victories for the first time in DI program history.
In addition to the single-game records that were set throughout the season, the single-season record book also saw some new entries.
Bryant set single-season records with 4,657 yards of total offense and 423.4 yards of total offense per game.
Individually, Wilson set single-season records for completions (257), attempts (431), passing yards (3,311) and total offense (3,263).
Costigan became just the second player in program history to record over 100 tackles in a season while tying the record for sacks in a season with 11.5.
Redshirt junior Kevin Lazo (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) set the program record with four blocked kicks.
Following the season, several Bulldogs were recognized for their outstanding achievements during the year.
Costigan was named a Third Team AP All-American and a Fourth Team Phil Steele All-American.
In addition, Costigan was named the NEC and ECAC Defensive Player of the Year, as well as First Team All-NEC, First Team All-ECAC and All-New England.
Constant also earned two All-America citations as he was named to the Phil Steele All-American team and became Bryant's first-ever STATS FCS All-American with a third team nod.
Constant was also became the first Bryant player since Jordan Brown to earn multiple All-NEC honors in the same season as he was named a first team return specialist and a second team wide receiver. Constant finished the season ranked fifth nationally in all-purpose yards.
Freshman Andre Brackett (East Windsor, Conn.) became the second player in program history to earn NEC Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Kennedy earned All-NEC First Team honors in his first season back on the gridiron. He was also named to the All-New England team and was a CoSIDA Academic All-District selection.
Redshirt junior Dillon Guthro (Newburyport, Mass.) was named to the All-NEC First Team as a defensive lineman.
Bryant also placed three others on the All-NEC Second Team; Wilson, Lazo and sophomore kicker Gavin Rowley (Hampstead, Md.).