DANBURY, Conn. – For the third straight week, sophomore Jeff Parker (Norwich, NY) rushed for over 100 yards and a pair of touchdowns, as Plymouth State College handed Western Connecticut State University a 19-9 Freedom Football Conference defeat Saturday at Midtown Campus Field.
The victory improves PSC to 4-0 overall and 2-0 in the FFC. Western Connecticut, which drops its FFC opener, falls to 2-2 overall.
While Parker was effective with 105 yards, and the PSC defense surrendered only three points, it was turnovers that did in the Colonials. After not turning the ball over at all in its first three games, WCSU lost four fumbles and threw three interceptions.
Parker scored once in the second quarter from three yards out, and again in the third quarter on a five-yard burst. Both TDs were set up by Colonial miscues, the first by a Western fumble at its own 17 yard line, and the second on a fumble at the PSC 45.
“You’ve got to give Plymouth State credit, they seem to always find a way to win,” said WCSU head coach John Cervino. “I’m not sure this time it wasn’t us giving it to them. We made enough mistakes on offense and special teams for the season. It’s extremely difficult to win turning the ball over seven times.”
PSC also scored a TD on a one-yard scamper by Matt Botz (West Islip, NY) with 20 seconds to go in the first half, which was set up by a WCSU botched snap to the punter that gave the Panthers a first down at Western’s 12 yard line.
“I felt we beat a real talented Western Conn. team today,” said PSC head coach Mike Kemp. “Our young players took a big step today. We’re happy to be 4-0, and we’re finding different ways to win.”
Both teams used two quarterbacks. PSC started Eric Rush (Hampton, NH), but gave way to regular starter Zach Matthews (Sanford, ME), who missed much of the week with injuries. WCSU rotated its two QBs, Matt LeFever (Ocean City, NJ) and Tim Uhl (Glendale, NY).
Western took a 3-0 lead early in the second quarter on a 24 yard field goal by Adam Kennett (North Kingston, RI), capping a 73-yard drive. It could have been a 7-0 lead, but a WCSU receiver dropped a pass in the end zone during the drive, and the Colonials couldn’t punch it in despite first-and-goal at the Panther nine.
The Colonials found the end zone later in the quarter on a 70-yard pass play from LeFever to Ed Wilcher (East Orange, NJ), but it was called back on a holding penalty. PSC recovered a Western fumble on the next play, and it took Parker runs of 14 and three yards to find the end zone. The Panthers missed the extra point, but what was almost a 10-0 WCSU lead turned into a 6-3 Plymouth State advantage.
“It was very crucial that we were able to capitalize of the turnovers they gave us,” said Kemp. “The defense came up with some big plays and the offense turned them into our advantage.”
Botz’s touchdown in the closing moments of the half gave PSC a 12-3 lead at the break.
Plymouth State went ahead 19-3 in the third quarter after putting together its best drive (13 plays, 55 yards) of the afternoon. A key play in the drive was a successful fourth down pass play from Matthews to Joel Carey (South Pomfret, VT).
Trailing 19-3 in the fourth quarter, the Colonials scored their only touchdown of the day when Winston Huggins (Amithville, NY) returned an interception 55 yards for a score. They almost scored again late in the quarter, but PSC’s John McLauglin (East Bridgewater, MA) caught Wilcher from behind for a TD-saving tackle after a 75-yard game. Two plays later, WCSU threw an interception for its seventh, and final, turnover.
The Colonials outgained the Panthers 319-258. Western’s athletic receivers Wilcher and Calvin Key (West Palm Beach, FL) combined for 12 receptions and 246 yards. PSC defensive backs were able, however, to keep them out of the end zone.
“It was very difficult. These guys are tall and very athletic,” said PSC corner Robert Maylone (Manchester, NH/Central), who had four tackles, one fumble recovery and an interception on WCSU’s conversion attempt. “We knew we had to shut them down and we were able to come up with some big plays.”
“This week I felt much better than I did last week,” said Kemp. “Zach is a prime example of how our young players are developing. Yes, he’s made some mistakes but today he came through with a solid effort. He’s very indicative of all our young players.”