WESTFIELD, Mass. -- Westfield State jumped out to a 9-0 halftime lead, but UMass Dartmouth used two fumble returns for touchdowns to fuel a second half rally en route to a 28-9 win over Westfield State in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference opener for both teams Friday evening at Alumni Field.
UMD Sophomore Sean Reall (North Providence, R.I.) and junior Tony Slaughter (Springfield, Mass.) each returned third quarter fumbles for touchdowns.
The visiting Corsairs (2-1, 1-0 MASCAC) trailed 9-0 at the break but turned that deficit into a five point lead in just a 20-second span early in the third stanza, as senior Samuel Ejiasi's (Forney, Tex.) strip sack was recovered and returned 42 yards for a touchdown by Reall to slice the host Owls' (1-2, 0-1 MASCAC) lead to 9-7. Freshman Javien Delgado (Lynn, Mass.) then recovered a Westfield State fumble on the ensuing kickoff on the hosts' 23-yard line, and senior Matt Mitchell (Westerly, R.I.) found the end zone from that distance two plays later to give UMass Dartmouth a 14-9 advantage.
Following an Owl punt that gave the Corsairs possession at the hosts' 46 yard-line, junior quarterback Jace Pena (Riverside, R.I.) capped a seven-play drive with a one-yard scoring strike to sophomore Jacob Francis (Middletown, R.I.) to extend the visitors' edge to 21-9 with 5:58 to play in the third, and UMass Dartmouth added its second strip sack and score of the quarter just 1:12 later when senior Jonathan Cistrunk (Alpharetta, Ga.) forced a fumble that was returned 30 yards by Slaughter for a touchdown.
Westfield State got on the board just 6:11 into the contest when junior quarterback Jake Cassidy (Swampscott, Mass.) scampered in from 34 yards out, and the Owls took advantage of a penalty and fumble on special teams to extend that margin to 9-0 on junior Corey Pooler's (Middleboro, Mass.) 25-yard field goal with 3:22 remaining in the first half. That would prove to be the scoring on the night for the hosts, as UMass Dartmouth sophomore Jacob Burkhead (Plymouth, Mass.) forced and recovered a key fumble inside the Corsair five yard line late in the second stanza to keep it a nine-point affair.
After allowing 91 rushing yards in the opening quarter alone, UMass Dartmouth limited Westfield State to just 44 yards on the ground over the final three quarters, as the Owls outgained the Corsairs by a 258-247 margin overall. Pena threw for 76 yards for the visitors, who received 75 rushing yards from freshman Steffan Gravely (Lynn, Mass.), while Cassidy amassed 96 total yards of offense (64 passing) in the setback for the hosts. Burkhead added eight tackles to go with his fumble recovery for the Corsairs, while senior Zach Howard (Spencer, Mass.) made seven stops in the setback for the Owls. UMass Dartmouth claimed its fourth straight win in the series with Westfield State, as the Corsairs have won four straight on the road dating back to last November.
The Owls fumbled seven times on the day, losing four, and were minus four in the turnover game for the day.
Cassidy finished with 56 yars rushing and 62 yards passing to lead the Owls in both categories. Nick Ieng (Chelsea, Mass.) caught a 48-yard pass from Andrew Peltier (Holyoke, Mass.) to lead the Owls recievers.
UMass Dartmouth hosts Plymouth State in a Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference clash next Saturday, September 22nd at Cressy Field that kicks off at 5:30 pm, while Westfield State travels to Worcester, Mass. next Saturday afternoon to square off with Worcester State in a MASCAC outing that kicks off at 1:30 pm.