The Central Connecticut football team dropped its final non-conference game of the season, on the road at UMass on Saturday night. The Blue Devils climbed to within two points in the fourth quarter, but UMass answered with kickoff and interception returns for a pair of touchdowns to lead the Minutemen to the 42-26 victory.
With the loss the Blue Devils drop to 2-4 overall, and have lost three straight for the first time since the beginning of the 2003 season. UMass improves to 3-2 and snaps a two-game losing streak.
Senior quarterback Gunnar Jespersen rushed for a pair of touchdowns in the loss, and had a game-high 93 rushing yards. The total was the second-highest output of his career. He also threw for a touchdown in the game.
Following a UMass field goal to open the scoring, he Blue Devils answered on their first drive, using the legs of Jespersen. He rushed from one-yard out to give the Blue Devils a 7-3 lead with 6:02 left in the first quarter. He rushed four times for 40 yards on the drive, including a season-long 33-yard rush. The drive went eight plays and 69 yards.
UMass would answer, scoring 19 unanswered points to take a 22-7 lead. They scored on a two yard run by Jonathan Hernandez on a drive that took just six plays to move 85 yards.
The lead reached 12-7 after a safety, following a bad snap on a punt attempt on the first play of the second quarter for Central. On the next possession, a 58-yard scoring pass to Emil Igwenagu pushed the lead to 19-7. Following a Jespersen interception, another field goal made it 22-7.
Just before halftime sophomore Chris Tolbert rushed in from 12-yards out to cut the lead to 22-13. Tolbert's rush capped a seven-play, 72-yard drive and took only 2:13 off the clock. The extra point was missed. UMass committed a pair of 15-yard penalties on the drive to help Central cut the lead to nine.
Central had just 109 yards of offense in the first half and the game's only turnover. The Minutemen had 230 yards, including 164 through the air.
In the second half, Hernandez ran in from 22-yards out to push the UMass lead to 28-13 with 8:27 to play in the third quarter. The extra-point was blocked by the Blue Devils.
Jespersen and the Blue Devils answered again, this time on a long drive that resulted in Jespersen's second rushing touchdown of the game, again from one-yard out. The drive was eight plays long and went for 74-yards, cutting the Massachusetts lead to 28-20.
After forcing a UMass punt, the Blue Devils Jespersen hit Raul Debenendittis from four-yards out to cap another long scoring drive, cutting the lead to 28-26. Central went for two, but the rushing attempt by Tolbert was no good, with 8:46 left to play in the fourth. Central went 19 plays on the drive, moving 68-yards and taking 7:51 off the clock, cutting the lead to two.
UMass answered by running the kickoff back 90-yards for a touchdown, making it 35-26 with 8:32 on the clock.
Central continues its road swing and returns to league action next Saturday at Duquesne. The game will air live on ESPN Radio 1410 and online at CCSUBlueDevils.com.