By Jim Fenton, The Enterprise (Brockton)
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- The Bridgewater State University football team returns to Swenson Field on Friday night for the first time since opening day.
The Bears, who dropped two straight road games, host winless Fitchburg State University at 7 p.m., looking to even their record at 2-2.
Stonehill College (1-2) will be under the lights for a fourth straight game when it travels to New Haven to meet Southern Connecticut State University (1-2) on Saturday at 6 p.m.
After winning its opener over Buffalo State on Labor Day weekend, Bridgewater State struggled offensively in losses at Endicott College and Framingham State University.
The Bears managed just a field goal against Endicott and two touchdowns against Framingham State, one of them set up by an interception return to the 3-yard line.
"We made some mistakes last week that we've fixed and we should be in a better place,″ said coach Joe Verria, whose team is 0-1 in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference. "It's been a great week of practice despite the bad weather. We were inside one day, but the kids are very focused and they're ready to go."
Fitchburg State (0-3, 0-1) is just 8-25 against Bridgewater State but has won three of the last four meetings, including a 31-29 decision a year ago.
"They're athletic, pretty fast," said Verria. "They've got a big offensive line and they're physical."
The Bears know the importance of stopping the losing streak before going back on the road next weekend to play Westfield State when the season's midway point arrives.
"This is a big game, obviously," said Verria. "It's a home game, it's a night game, and, No. 1, it's a conference game. We've got to get back on the winning track here. We played two tough opponents and it's definitely prepared us for this."
Stonehill plays its next two games on the road before having a bye. The next time the Skyhawks play at W.B. Mason Stadium in Easton is Oct. 13 when Merrimack College visits.
In a 27-7 loss to LIU Post last Saturday, Stonehill was behind, 6-0, six-plus minutes into the second half, then allowed two touchdowns in a span of 3:13.
"We were in a really close, tight football game for 2/1-2 quarters," said coach Eli Gardner. "The guys battled, especially on defense. We weren't able to establish any rhythm on offense and were in obvious passing situations."
Southern Connecticut State (1-2, 0-2 in the Northeast-10 Conference) is 20-2 against the Skyhawks, whose only wins came in 2012 and 2013.
The Owls rolled up 556 yards of total offense in a 45-26 win in Easton last season, scoring four touchdowns of at least 30 yards. Eli Parks ran for 157 yards and scored twice, and he is averaging 109.3 yards per game this season.
"It's going to be a great atmosphere down there with a 6 o'clock start," said Gardner, who missed last season's loss to Southern Connecticut State due to the birth of his son. "They're hungry, too. They lost two games in a row and they're always a really talented team. We're hungry to turn things around. It's definitely going to be another hard-fought football game."
After playing in Connecticut this weekend, Stonehill travels to New York the following weekend to go against Pace.
"It's going to be a really good challenge for our team," said Gardner. "We're going to learn a lot about ourselves over the next two weeks going on the road and playing two tough conference games.
"There's a lot of distractions that come with that with the travel and the new environment and everything that goes along with that. From a maturity standpoint we have a lot of returners, guys with experience and they know how to handle this situation. That'll allow us to be more effective in how we perform."
- Boston College 31, Purdue 21: The Eagles make it a 4-0 start.
- Stanford 34, Oregon 28: The seventh-ranked Cardinal survive a battle of the unbeatens.
- UMass 27, Charlotte 17: The Minutemen return home and end a three-game losing streak.
- Bridgewater State 28, Fitchburg State 20: The Bears get to .500 with the win at home.
- Southern Connecticut State 24, Stonehill 21: The Skyhawks are edged by the Owls.
LAST WEEK: 4-1 | SEASON TOTAL: 11-4