The scene was set for the top two teams of the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) Saturday afternoon with Framingham State University traveling to Bridgewater to take on Bridgewater State University (BSU) at Swenson Field.
BSU took a 10-7 lead into halftime against a Framingham team that was averaging 39.1 points per contest in 2015.
The first half was highlighted by a downfield strike into the endzone by the Bear’s junior quarterback Danny Higgins, landing in the hands of sophomore Brandon Giles for a 31-yard touchdown.
“We played with high energy and effort all game, but in that first half we probably played with more energy or passion than we have all year,” said Head Coach Charles Denune.
The third quarter was all Framingham as they outscored the Bears 17-0, taking over the lead. An early second half touchdown occurred when senior quarterback Matt Silva slang one of his three touchdowns on the day to senior Tevin Jones.
During that third quarter, BSU had a couple of should-be interceptions fall right through their hands as well as a string of three straight offensive possessions ending with a three-and-out.
Senior wideout Mike Viola shined on the afternoon railing in six catches for 109 yards, bringing him to 1,073 receiving yards in his BSU career. Viola is only the 12th player in BSU history to surpass 1,000 receiving yards.
A controversial no-call came in that third quarter as Viola was shoved by a Ram defender right in front of the Bears sideline well before the ball was touched.
If the pass interference were called, BSU would have had possession near midfield. Instead, they punted the ball away to speedy Framingham return man, Quron Wright, who returned the ball all the way to the Framingham 8-yard line.
On their first offensive play, Silva connected with running back Jalen Green for a score to extend the lead to 21-10.
“There were a couple of calls that were very questionable,” said Coach Denune. “From a coaching perspective, it doesn’t do too much to complain about it. It’s (the player’s) job to play the game, our job to coach the game, and the ref’s job to ref the game.”
Sean Wlusak, Framingham’s place kicker, connected from 28 yards before the end of the third and again from 20 yards early in the fourth to bring the score to 27-10.
With the MASCAC championship hopes dwindling, Higgins found Viola on a deep route which Viola turned into a 71-yard touchdown, accounting for the only BSU points in the second half.
Senior linebacker A.J. Pascuzzo highlighted the Bears defense with his six tackles, two for a loss (four solos) and three pass breakups. Sophomore linebacker Andrew Frigault added pressure to the Rams offense all day and ended the game with a team-high eight tackles (four solo).
“It’s fair to say we gave them their toughest challenge of the year,” said Denune. “At the same time I feel like the gap is closing. Framingham has been the top dog in the conference for the last five years or so.”
“There’s been years when I walked off the field (after playing Framingham) and thought to myself it doesn’t matter how many times we play that game, they’re probably going to win,” added Denune. “That wasn’t the feeling this year. We’re heading in the right direction.”
The 27-17 loss to Framingham St. solidifies the Rams as the MASCAC champions, but does not quite eliminate BSU from postseason play.
BSU will travel to Massachusetts Maritime Academy on Saturday, Nov. 10 for the annual Cranberry Bowl between the two teams with the winner taking home the “Cranberry Scoop” trophy.
Bridgewater has won eight of the last 10 meetings with the Buccaneers, but will not forget what happened to them on their own field a year ago, following a 31-21 defeat at the hands of Mass Maritime.
“They made a pretty big deal, throwing a big party for a celebration afterwards and it stuck with us all year,” said Denune. “I think anyone that was on the roster last year remembers the feeling after that game, and the kind of disrespect that was shown towards us. I don’t think it’s going to be hard to motivate these guys.”
Revenge is clearly on the mind with this upcoming matchup which assures to be an emotional contest.
The Bears are one of 22 teams that can finish with a 7-3 record, vying for one of the twelve spots in the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Championship Bowl Games hosted by Central Connecticut State University.
Those Championship bowl games will be determined Monday, Nov. 16, following the last Saturday of the regular season.
Brendan Coughlin is the Sports Editor for The Comment.