DARTMOUTH, Mass. – The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth football team avenged its week one loss in dramatic fashion, taking a complete-team performance and coasting to a 51-26 decision over Westfield State University in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference opener on Saturday.
Score: UMass Dartmouth 51, Westfield State 26
Records: UMass Dartmouth (1-1, 1-0 MASCAC) | Westfield State (0-3, 0-1 MASCAC)
How it Happened
The Corsairs' rebound after a two-week hiatus was evident from the opening kick as senior DaVon Fuller (Washington, D.C.) exploded up the seam for a 90-yard return touchdown.
The early confidence booster upped the action when freshman Stephen Gacioch (Tiverton, R.I.) connected with junior Abbi Bamgbose (Worcester, Mass.) on a slant route inside the 20-yard line for the first points from scrimmage, bumping the lead to 14-0.
Less than two minutes later, the Gacioch-Bamgbose duo linked again, this time with Gacioch threading a tight window before Bamgbose came up with a contested one-handed touchdown grab.
The Owls cut into the deficit just before the end of the first stanza when Travon Holder (Hartford, Conn.) punctuated a 13-play, 56-yard drive with touchdown rush from the left side of the field from four yards out (21-7).
After scoring frenzy in the first, the offenses cooled in the second quarter as the teams went backwards more than forward after being called for five penalties.
Following the break, Westfield State took the kick, wasting only a minute before reducing its deficit to 2-14 as Holder broke off a 54-yard rush for his second score of the game.
With 9:57 left in the third quarter, Gacioch tossed his third touchdown of the game, finding junior Jeremy Jackson (Middletown, R.I.) wide open in the right corner of the end zone for his first collegiate score.
The back-and-fourth continued just three minutes later as Holder took advantage of solid blocking from his big men, bouncing the rush to the outside and scoring a 25-yard touchdown for his third score of the game.
Less than 30 seconds later, Gacioch aired it out to Bamgbose, moving the sticks inside the Owls 15-yard line for another scoring threat. The offense was halted by Westfield State on three downs but the host still upped its advantage to 31-20 as freshman James Tooker (Harwich, Mass.) knocked down a field goal from 31-yards out.
The Corsairs made it ten unanswered points when Gacioch rolled out to escape the pressure of the Owls defensive front, hitting freshman LeRoy Brown (Milton, Mass.) in the numbers at the base of the end zone for his first touchdown catch of the season.
After a strong defensive showing, UMass Dartmouth continued its scoring mastery when safety Tony Slaughter (Springfield, Mass.) scooped a bouncing punt off the turf, juking defenders and bringing it 57 yards to the house.
UMass Dartmouth put its final stamp on the ball game when the scrambling Jace Pena (East Providence, R.I.) found Adam McLaughlin (Taunton, Mass.) in the corner of the end zone, closing the game with 24 unanswered points and putting the hosts over the 50-point mark.
Westfield pulled the deficit closer in the closing minutes of the game as Phil Cohen caught a 29-yard pass from Chris Belsito to deliver the 51-26 final.
Inside the Numbers
- The Corsairs controlled the game of yards, totaling 448 yards of offense to the Owls' 373, UMass Dartmouth's highest total since shutting out Mass. Maritime on Oct. 22 last season.
- The Owls had a heavy rushing attack, keeping it on the ground 56 times and throwing on just 21 occasions.
- Gacioch finished with a game-high 251 yards with four touchdowns on 13-of-20 passing. Bamgbose tallied seven catches for 185 yards receiving with two touchdowns.
- The Corsair defense held the opposition to just 21 first downs, forcing five punts throughout the contest.
- UMass Dartmouth's 51 points is the most scored by a Corsairs squad since Nov. 1st, 2008 when they beat Endicott 53-35.
- With the win, the Corsairs even the all-time series with Westfield State to 8-8.
The Corsairs hit the road for the first time on the season when they travel to Plymouth State on Sept.23rd at 1:00 P.M. to continue conference play. The Owls host Worcester State on the same day for a 2:00 P.M. kickoff.