With the game on the line, the Bridgewater State University football team relied on the familiar sight of senior quarterback Mike McCarthy connecting with junior wide receiver Matt Green.
Tied 20-20 with 4:48 left in the fourth quarter, McCarthy led the Bears on a nine-play, 80-yard drive, capped off when he hit Green in the corner of the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown pass with 1:16 left in regulation.
The late touchdown gave the Bears a 26-20 Homecoming win over Westfield State University, as they improve to 5-3 on the season and 4-2 in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC).
“It sounds like a familiar story, doesn’t it?” said Bridgewater State head coach Chuck Denune. “Those two have been hooking up all year. They did a great job. The nice thing about it is, you have a lot of guys making plays, so they can’t home in on Green. And eventually they are going to get one-on-one with the kid, and there aren’t a whole lot of people that can cover him one-on-one.”
On the final drive, McCarthy went to Green when he needed the him the most, as McCarthy completed three passes to Green on the drive, including the touchdown.
“I have so much confidence in Matt and what he does,” McCarthy said. “He makes it easy for me. If I throw it up there, I know he is going to go get it. The line had great protection and everything happened to work on that play.”
The touchdown catch was Green’s 15 of the season, as he had seven receptions for 88 yards and two touchdowns in the game. For the season, Green leads NCAA Division III in touchdown receptions and receiving yards with 1,080.
“It’s unbelievable, this is the best season I’ve ever had in any league, any year,” Green said. “I’m just going to try to keep going. We have two more games, I’m just going to keep adding to it.”
The McCarthy-Green connection has flourished this year. The duo has hooked up 54 times this season, 30 catches ahead of the next receiver. Also, 15 of McCarthy’s 17 touchdown passes have gone to Green.
“This offseason we would just hang out all the time, just throwing to each other,” Green said. “And that’s just what did it. He doesn’t even have to look at me, he just knows where I’m going to be. He just puts it there and he knows.”
On the first play of the game, McCarthy injured his left shoulder on a run up the middle and had to take a few plays off.
In obvious pain, McCarthy played through the injury and at halftime, he had to get his shoulder significantly wrapped. But he wouldn’t let it stop him from playing in his last Homecoming game.
“It was very painful the rest of the game, but there was no way I was coming out,” McCarthy said. “It’s my senior year, I only have two games left. I had to battle out for my teammates.”
To go along with McCarthy’s injury, the game did not start well for the Bears. Westfield State converted a 36-yard field goal on their first drive of the game to go up 3-0. They then added a touchdown after capitalizing on a muffed punt by Bridgewater State, giving the Owls the ball at the Bears’ one-yard line.
The Owls ran the ball in for a 10-0 lead with 1:36 left in the first quarter.
The Bears answered with a long drive of their own in the second quarter. They converted three fourth down plays and found the end zone on their 15 play of the drive with a one-yard McCarthy run to cut into the deficit, 10-7.
Westfield State added another field goal just before halftime and took a 13-7 lead heading into the break. Going up against the MASCAC’s number one ranked defense, the Bears’ offense struggled in the first half with only 34 yards of total offense.
It all changed in the second half though, with McCarthy attacking the defense through the air. It lead to a 16-yard touchdown pass to Green to give the Bears a 14-13 lead with 7:30 left in the third quarter.
“I think the big thing was the whole mentality of it,” Denune said. “That first score that we put up against them in the first half, we said, ‘you know what, we’re just going to get downhill on these guys.’ I think that set the tone for these guys. It just kind of opened the playbook up for us, once we were able to establish that dominance of coming downhill on them if we wanted too.”
The Bears continued to have success with the passing game in the third quarter, as the Bears extended their lead to 20-13 when McCarthy hit senior wide receiver Chris Constantine with a six-yard touchdown pass with 1:54 remaining in the third quarter.
But with some miscues late in the third and early in the fourth quarters, the Owls were able to tie the game 20-20 with 13:06 left in the game.
It helped to set up the heroics of McCarthy and Green on the final drive and after the go-ahead touchdown the defense stepped up to close out the game.
Senior Mike Gentili helped to lead a solid defensive effort, as he played in all three phases of the game, offense, defense and special teams.
“The kid was all over the field,” Denune said. “He is an older man, and he knows what it takes to win college football games. He was going to do whatever we asked.”
With a bye week coming up, the Bears will look to catch up on some rest with two games left in the season.
“We are going to work hard and rest hard,” Denune said. “And we are going to get ready for our last two games and see what happens.”
The Bears will host conference rival Framingham State University on November 9 in their last home game of the season. Kickoff is scheduled for 12 p.m.
Greg Dudek is The Comment’s Editor-In-Chief. Follow him on Twitter at gdudek10 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.