NEW BRITAIN, Conn. -- Sam Benger rushed for 190 yards and four touchdowns to earn game MVP honors as the Carnegia Mellon University football team cruised to a 48-13 victory over Bridgewater State University in the 2015 ECAC Legacy Bowl on Sunday afternoon at Arute Field.
The Tartans end the season with an overall record of 8-3, while the Bears fall to 7-4.
BSU quarterback Danny Higgins completed 13 of 22 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Bears. Higgins also rushed for 40 yards on seven carries. Travis Bassett hauled in five receptions for 111 yards and a score.
Following a game-opening 38-yard kickoff return by Vince Demarchi, the Tartans moved the ball 52 yards on eight plays with Benger rushing for a two-yard touchdown.
The Bears drove 83 yards on 13 plays capped off by a Higgins to Michael Viola 15-yard touchdown pass to tie the game up at 7-7. Chris Herrera, however, returned the ensuing kickoff 88-yards for a touchdown to reclaim the lead for the Tartans, 14-7.
After a Bridgewater punt, Andrew Hearon hooked up with Herrera on a 50-yard scoring strike to extend the Carnegie Mellon advantage to 21-7 early in the second quarter.
On the ensuing possession, the Bears were stopped on fourth and one from the CMU 21. The BSU defense, however, got the ball back three plays later when David Console picked off a Hearon pass at the 34. The Bears were unable to capitalize on the turnover as a Liam Murphy 37-yard field goal attempt was blocked.
After taking over at the 20, Benger broke off a 51-yard run to move the ball into BSU territory. Eight plays later, Benger punched it in from a yard out to give the Tartans a 28-7 lead.
A 69-yard touchdown pass from Higgins to Bassett opened the third quarter and cut the Bears' deficit to 28-13. The conversion attempt, however, was blocked.
Carnegie Mellon responded with an eight-play, 75-yard drive highlight by a 42-yard pass from Hearon to Max Reinertsen which set up a first-and-goal from the BSU three-yard line. Three plays later on fourth down, Benger bulldozed his was in from a yard out as the Tartans upped their lead to 35-13.
Later in the quarter, Carnegie Mellon received great field position after the Bears were punting from the end zone. A low 38-yard punt and an 18-yard Samer Abdelmoty return set the Tartans up at the BSU 21 Two plays later, Hearon connected with Graham Schilling on a 14-yard touchdown to make it a 41-13 game (the conversion was missed).
The Bears put together a nice drive early in the fourth quarter, but were unable come away with points. Bridgewater moved the ball 83 yards on 14 plays, but the drive stalled inside the red zone. The Bears had first and goal at the seven, but could not find the end zone after two short runs and a pair of incomplete passes.
Starting at their own three-yard line, the Tartans put together a 15-play, 97-yard drive which encompassed over seven minutes (7:18). A 38-yard pass from Hearon to Reinertsen set up Benger's fourth rushing touchdown of the day, this time from two-yards out, to put the finishing touches on the 48-13 victory.
Hearon completed 14 off 22 passes for 289 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also threw two interceptions. Hearon's main target was John Prather who finished with six catches for 112 yards. Reinertsen finished with three receptions for 95 yards.
Dukens Leon also highlighted the BSU offense with seven catches for 89 yards.
Carnegie Mellon racked up 488 yards of total offense including 289 through the air. Benger accounted for 190 of the Tartan's 199 rushing yards. CMU held the time of possession advantage over each of the final three quarters (32:50 to 27:10 overall), and went 7-for-14 on third down conversions.
Bridgewater State finished with 372 yards of total offense with 242 passing yards and 130 rushing. The Bears went 5-for-13 on third down and 0-for-3 on fourth, and converted just 1 of 3 red zone opportunities.
Drew Fitzmorris led the CMU defense with eight tackles (three solo), a pass breakup and two blocked kicks. Brian Khoury added seven tackles, including one for loss, while Ryan Aitken checked in with six solo stops and a breakup.
Nicholas Salois paced the BSU defense with 11 tackles (five solo), while A.J. Pascuzzo (four solo) and Logan Lamoureux each recorded nine. Console tallied five tackles in addition to his team-leading sixth interception of the season. Kyle Dance also had an interception for the Bears.
Notes: Bassett moved into ninth place on the Bears' all-time receiving yardage list. He has 1,303 yards in just two seasons at Bridgewater State. Bassett passed Paul Piccioli (1,257 yds.) and Chris Carr (1,295 yds.) on the all-time list....The Bears are now 2-8 all-time in postseason play with a 2-5 mark in ECAC Bowl/Championship games....Benger became the 21st player in Division III history to reach the 2,000-yard plateau. He ended the season with 2,087 rushing yards....Benger (22 TDs) also broke the CMU single-season rushing touchdown mark of 21 set by Brad Stanley in 2003.