BY STEVEN SOUSA // Oct. 8, 2017 //
Senior quarterback Alex Corvese capped a 55-yard scoring drive with a one-yard sneak to give Curry the lead over UMass Dartmouth with just over six minutes left to play.
The Corsairs failed to cross midfield on the ensuing possession and the Colonels moved to a 4-1 mark to start their season, the best record through the first five weeks of play since the 2008 squad started 7-0.
Co-captain Corvese finished the game 29-of-44 with 378 yards and two scores through the air, both of which came in the first half.
Curry headed into the game averaging 217.8 rushing yards per game but UMass’ game plan forced the Colonels to adjust from their option attack into more of a passing offense.
After the game, 12th-year Head Coach Skip Bandini explained what forced their alterations.
“They had six guys in the box and were playing man-to-man coverage so they are playing against the run,” Bandini noted. “We were trying to read one of those guys but when they bring in a seventh, you can’t block him so we had to throw.”
In place of the running game, Curry relied on a different name to move the chains. Sophomore Nick Villanueva caught 11 passes and racked up 152 yards, developing chemistry with #12 under center.
Entering the game, the Hanson, Mass. native hadn’t caught more than two passes for 27 yards in a single game and didn’t really expect to be thrown at that much. However, as the game plan changed, he was ready.
“We knew they were going to man-up so we ran a lot of switch routes and worked in practice to get off that man press,” Villanueva said.
Corvese found senior Spencer Tyler and sophomore Andrew Allen in both quarters of the first half before junior Mark Mrozek nailed a field goal to put the Colonels up 17-7 with just over eight minutes left in the second.
The Corsairs’ freshman quarterback, Stephen Gacioch, was forced to leave the game due to injury after being sacked on only the third play from scrimmage. Sophomore Jace Pena checked in and was promptly greeted by sophomore Aiden Cawley who intercepted his first passing attempt to give the ball back to Curry and Corvese.
Pena bounced back, however, and helped UMass rattle off 10 unanswered points to make the halftime score 17-17.
Another Corsair field goal grabbed them the lead in the third quarter, although it was short lived.
Corvese led the Colonels down a short field and found Tyler again for a 34-yard hookup that brought them down to the UMass three-yard line. That’s all the room Corvese needed and he took the lead back for the Purple and White after three quarters of play.
The Corsairs’ first drive of the fourth quarter started just before midfield but a holding penalty brought them back 10 yards. UMass called a slant route for junior Abbi Bamgbose and Pena led him to the open field and he took it all 61 yards to display a 27-24 score in favor of the Corsairs with 12:41 left on the clock.
Despite giving up that long touchdown, Bandini still had immense confidence in his team.
“Our kids always battle,” Bandini said. “That’s one thing we always know, they are going to battle no matter what.”
Both teams were forced to punt and junior Dylan Vieira-Owens called a fair catch for Curry on his own 45-yard line with 9 minutes remaining, still trailing by three.
Corvese started the drive with a pass to Villanueva (go figure) and went on to finish the drive 4-of-5 for 49 yards and sat with a 1st-and-goal at the one-yard line. Corvese’s 5’11” 190-pound frame snuck right through the trenches and fell into the end zone to put the Colonels up 30-27 with 6:06 remaining.
UMass started the drive on its own 15-yard line and again could not get over the 50 and were forced to return the ball to Curry.
Although the Colonels had trouble running the ball all game, the rushing attack came through with 31 yards and three first downs on the final drive to bleed out the clock and send the score final.
The close victory showcased the team’s mental toughness, something Bandini feels they pride themselves on.
“I’ve been here a long time, and there’s no tougher kids,” Bandini said simply. “I was telling these kids on Wednesday and Thursday night; ‘You guys are the toughest SOBs I’ve been around in a long time.’”
Curry enjoyed a bye-week last week and had an extra week to hash out the mistakes from their first loss of the season two weeks ago.
Now, they move on to the Commonwealth Coast Conference portion of their schedule, starting with a road trip to Becker College next Saturday, Oct. 14, for a 2 p.m. kickoff.