Football Team wins 31-27 in Last 43 Seconds
Philip Zoppi – Sports Writer
Southern Connecticut football won a thriller this past Friday night in the final 43 seconds of regulation, as they defeated Stonehill College 31-27 to even their record at 1-1 overall.
Leading 24-19, quarterback Robert Nittolo threw a crucial interception and Stonehill capitalized on it by scoring a touchdown on the ensuing drive to take a 27-24 lead.
Nittolo did not let that interception define his night, as he led the Owls for the game-winning touchdown drive the next time the Owls got the football.
“I just wanted to prove that I was one of the better players in the conference and come back from that,” said Nittolo when referring to the interception. “I had to come back and forget about it. I know that the great ones have a short memory.”
The receiver on the game-winning touchdown was the Owls’ leading scoring receiver from last year, Devante Jenkins.
Jenkins terrorized Stonehill’s secondary as he hauled in seven receptions for 120 yards. The game-winning touchdown came with 43 seconds left in the game, an 11-yard fade route that Jenkins thought he owed his team.
“I was kicking myself from before because I let one slip through my hands,” said Jenkins. “I just kept telling my teammates that I got them. When that ball was in the air it was just me and the ball.”
What set that game-winning touchdown up was junior Kendall Thomas’ return out to the Southern 48 yard line.
Thomas may have been the most valuable player on the field as he had five kickoff returns for 246 yards, and a touchdown. The returns that Thomas had completely changed the complexion of the game, as the Owls had a huge advantage in special teams all night.
“The whole week the coaches kept saying that special teams were going to play a big part in tonight’s game,” said Thomas. “I thought after the first time they were going to learn their lesson, but they kept on kicking it to me and they paid for it.”
Head football coach Tom Godek was taken back by the performance of Thomas and thought that it really turned the tide of the game.
“I don’t think we’ve seen something like that here in ten plus years,” said Godek. “That was a serious operation that he was running tonight.”
If the Owls’ did not make the heroic comeback they would have fell to 0-2 on the year in devastating fashion. Jenkins and the team knew just how big this game was because of that 0-2 record looming.
“It was huge,” said Jenkins. “ Since day one we were looking at Stonehill and wanted to make a statement. It was a great win because we preserved, a lot of things didn’t go our way but we battled and came out on top.”
Moving forward the concern on the team is definitely still the defense. They were gashed against Gannon University in week one as they gave up 31 points. This week wasn’t much better (27 points), but when Southern needed a stop they got it.
However, Godek was more encouraged from what he saw this week from his defense.
“I give them a lot of credit for bouncing back from that Gannon game,” said Godek. “We’re still having some problems on some of these gap plays that other teams are running against us, but other than that there was some three and outs, they bent, and tried to make the plays.”
The Owls will look to get their first winning streak of the season as they take on Assumption College on Sept. 16 under their lights at Worcester, Mass.
Photo Credit: Palmer Piana – Photo Editor