PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Senior Joel Carey (South Pomfret, VT) caught six passes for 134 yards and a touchdown Saturday to lead Plymouth State College to a 27-12 non-conference victory over Kean University at Currier Field.
The Panthers also got two touchdowns on returns. Sophomore Brian Chaplain (Hooksett, NH) picked off a Kean pass and returned it 35 yards for a first-quarter score, and junior Brent Bardellini (Milford, MA) took a kickoff 85 yards for a second quarter TD.
With the victory, PSC improved to 6-3 overall and kept its ECAC play-off hopes alive. Kean, which ran 92 plays to PSC’s 48 and had the ball for nearly 42 of the game’s 60 minutes, drops to 1-8 overall.
In fact, the Cougars outgained the Panthers 389-242 in total yards, but were hurt by three turnovers, 137 yards in penalties and the two returns for touchdowns.
“They were a very talented team,” said PSC head coach Mike Kemp, “but we made some big plays early and that gave us a lot of confidence.”
Chaplain’s interception return gave PSC a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter. It was the first touchdown for PSC’s defense this season.
“Jeff Beyer (Bedford, NH) made a great play, knocking the ball out of the receivers hand,” said Chaplain about his interception return for a TD. “I just happened to be in the right place when the ball popped out.”
“That play was huge because it got us going in the right direction,” said Kemp, “and it came at an important time.”
The Panthers made it a 14-0 lead on the second play of the second quarter when sophomore quarterback Eric Rush (Hampton, NH) found Carey in the end zone on a 39-yard scoring play. Rush, who made only his second start in place of Zach Matthews (Sanford, ME), also completed a 55-yard pass play to Carey.
“They were concentrating on our running game, and our new quarterback stepped up today and made some big plays,” said Carey, who leads PSC with 30 receptions on the year. “(On the 55 yarder), I went straight upfield and saw that Eric was rolling out. I caught eye contact with him and he threw a great ball to an open space.”
“Their objective was to stop our running game and they were successful at that,” said Kemp. “We needed to pop a run or throw the ball, and Eric Rush came up big today. They put a lot of pressure on him but he eluded them. He has made tremendous progress this year.”
Kean got on the board with 11:50 to go in the second quarter on a 15-yard pass from Jay Sgaramella (Kinnelon, NJ) to Tim Ajigabotosho (East Brunswick, NJ). The extra point was blocked by PSC’s Colt Meredith (Saugus, MA), and Bardellini took the ensuing kickoff 85 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown. Bardellini has six career punt returns for a touchdown, but this was his first kick-off return for a score.
Sophomore Jeff Parker (Norwich, NY) scored again for PSC with 4:32 to play in the second quarter to give the Panthers a 27-6 lead at the half.
Ajigabotosho caught his second TD of the day with 1:25 left in the game, a 25-yarder from sophomore Daniel Novak (Spotswood, NJ).
The Cougars also got another strong performance from freshman Tidy Corbett (Long Branch, NJ). He rushed 28 times for 126 yards, his seventh 100-yard game in nine outings this season, and caught eight passes for 68 yards. Corbett increased his school-record season rushing totals to 1,272 yards.
PSC wraps up the regular season next Saturday (Nov. 14) with a Freedom Football Conference encounter at Currier Field against WPI (1:00 p.m.).
“We’re just taking it one game at a time,” said Carey. “We won’t look ahead, but if we’re blessed with a play-off bid, we’ll be happy.”