Bryant opens NEC play with win

SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Sophomore quarterback Dalton Easton (Miami, Fla.) threw for 283 yards and a program-record five touchdowns to lead the Bryant University football team to a 42-27 victory over Saint Francis U. on Saturday afternoon at DeGol Field.

With the victory, the Bulldogs (5-1, 1-0 NEC) continue their best start in Division I history. They improve their record to 5-2 all-time against the Red Flash (2-5, 0-2).

Enjoying an outstanding first season with the Black and Gold, Easton put together one of the best performances by a signal caller in program history. Easton finished 16-of-22 for 283 yards and a program-record five scores. Five other quarterbacks in program history had thrown four in a game before Saturday. Easton threw touchdown passes of 33, 19, 22, 10 and 21.

Bryant wasted little time getting on the board as it took its first possession 82 yards in just four plays. Paul Canevari (Warwick, N.Y.) rushed for 11 yards on second down, John Lavin (Falmouth, Mass.) hauled in a 34-yard pass and Easton connected with Keenan Thompson (Broward County, Fla.) for a 33-yard touchdown. The TD reception was the first career for Thompson.

SFU followed with a scoring drive of its own as Lance Geesey capped a 10-play drive with a school-record 52-yard field goal.

After going three-and-out, the Bulldogs got a break as Zack Drayer fumbled the handoff and junior Aaron Dixon (Danbury, Conn.) recovered it at the SFU 43. A 20-yard run by Thompson fueled the drive and Easton and Lavin hooked up on a 21-yard scoring pass to make it 14-3 in the first quarter.

The Red Flash used a crucial special teams play to get right back in the game, however. With the Bulldogs punting from their own goal line, Lorenzo Jerome fielded the punt at his own 48 and sprinted down the sideline for a 52-yard punt return for a touchdown.

Bryant wouldn’t let SFU get any closer though as it scored the next two touchdowns. On the very next drive, Canevari broke off a 40-yard run to put the ball inside the SFU 25. Three plays later, Easton threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to junior Jose Depadua (Frederick, Md.).

The Bulldog defense then forced a three-and-out and took advantage of a short field to extend their lead. Bryant started at the Red Flash 40 and used 10 plays to get into the endzone. Ricardo McCray (Middletown, R.I.) picked up six yards to convert on a third down and Easton capped the scoring drive with a 10-yard strike to Chad Ward (Delray Beach, Fla.).

The Red Flash responded with the next 10 points to make it an eight-point game in the third quarter. Geesey hit a 20-yard field goal at the tail end of the first half and Khairi Dickson exploded for a 71-yard touchdown run after his team stuffed the Bulldogs on six-straight plays from inside the three-yard line.

McCray quickly gave the momentum back to the Black and Gold as he returned the ensuing kickoff 56 yards to start another Bryant scoring drive. Thompson caught a pass for 15 yards and rushed for six more to start the drive before Easton hit Lavin for his record-breaking fifth touchdown pass.

Bryant put the game away with an 11-play, 66-yard drive in the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs started the drive with eight-straight runs before Easton connected with Ward for 25 yards to put the ball at the SFU 5. McCray found the endzone two plays later to make it 42-20 with just 3:21 left. A late Red Flash touchdown completed the scoring.

Canevari finished with his first 100-yard game of the year, carrying the ball 16 times for 107 yards. McCray finished with 52 yards on the ground, eight yards through the air and 66 yards on kick returns. Lavin finished with three catches for 74 yards and two scores, while Ward caught five passes for 121 yards and his fourth touchdown. Sophomore Marquise Watson (Hillside, N.J.) led the Bulldogs with 10 tackles and senior Maduka Nwanekezi (Milton, Mass.) had two sacks.

The Bulldogs return home next weekend when they host Robert Morris on Parents and Family Weekend. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. at Bulldog Stadium.

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