By Jim Fenton, The Enterprise (Brockton)
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- The Bridgewater State University football team had been involved in close games to open the past two seasons.
The Bears lost at Buffalo State, 20-19, in 2017, then won the rematch a year ago, 30-29, in a pair of non-conference thrillers.
When the 2019 season got underway at Swenson Field on Saturday afternoon against another team from New York state, though, it was a completely different story.
Bridgewater State was handed a 39-7 loss by Morrisville State as the Bears were outplayed in all areas, managing 268 yards of total offense while their quarterbacks were sacked five times.
“That’s a good football team,” said BSU coach Joe Verria of the Mustangs, who play in the Empire 8 Conference. “These games are designed to help find out how we are and what type of football team we are, what we need to work on. Now we know what we have to work on. There are some things we’ve got to fix.”
Bridgewater State and Morrisville State, meeting for the first time, were scoreless until the visitors put together a 19-point second quarter to take control. After the Bears’ lone touchdown less than five minutes into the second half, the Mustangs scored three more TDs to pull away.
Morrisville State did not let Bridgewater State get its running game going, limiting the Bears to 68 yards on 32 carries, and the Mustangs picked off a pair of passes, returning one for a score.
“Offense didn’t get going, defense didn’t get going,” said Verria. “It’s week one and we’ve got to get better, simple as that. We all have to learn from our mistakes. We have to look at it and say, ‘How do we get better.’”
Bridgewater State made a bid to take a lead with 2:51 to go in the first half, but a 37-yard field goal try by Thomas Fay of Raynham was tipped. Morrisville State then went 80 yards in nine plays to go on top, 7-0, with 13:08 left in the half.
Quarterback Bill Flatow (15 for 25, 190 yards) completed three passes in the drive that ended with a 3-yard run by Kinsey Williams.
Less than two minutes later, the lead went to 13-0 when Tour’e Hall caught an 8-yard TD pass from Flatow after Joe Miller-LaBar recovered a fumble at the BSU 23.
Morrisville opened a 19-0 advantage with nine seconds to go in the half when Hall caught a 9-yard TD pass from Flatow on third-and-goal to finish a drive that began with less than two minutes remaining before the break.
The Bears’ offense was unable to get much going with starter Stefano D’Emilia of Bridgewater going 12 for 20 for 124 yards with two sacks and Brad Thiltgen going 7 for 14 for 76 yards with three sacks.
Their lone TD came with 10:24 left in the third quarter after John MacDermott, a Bridgewater-Raynham graduate, recovered a Morrisville State fumble at the Mustangs’ 16. Four plays later, D’Emilia scored on a 6-yard run and Fay added the point after.
Morrisville State got that TD back with 2:46 to go in the third quarter, starting a drive at the BSU 38 and scoring on a 2-yard run by Flatow to make it 26-7.
In the fourth quarter, Deondrade Wells picked off a pass and went 49 yards down the left sideline for a TD and a 33-7 lead and Mike Cirasuolo finished the scoring with a 7-yard run with 1:25 remaining.
The Mustangs had a size advantage up front on both sides and took advantage as the game went on.
“Their size up front got us a little bit,” said Verria. “They’re big and physical up front. But in the beginning of the game, we were doing OK. It’s a 60-minute game, though.”
The Bears play another Empire 8 team next Saturday, traveling to Rochester, New York, to take on St. John Fisher, which won its opener Saturday against Buffalo State.
“We’ve just got to take this as a learning experience, fix what didn’t work, move on and get ready for St. John Fisher next week,” said Verria. “It’s a good league we’re playing against. It doesn’t get easier, so we need to prepare even better this week.”