Charger Football Takes Season Opener in Overtime

Charger Athletics

WEST HAVEN, Conn. – The University of New Haven football team won its 2011 season opener in a stunning comeback on Saturday afternoon against West Chester University of Pennsylvania. The

The stands were packed at the first UNH football game of the semester on Saturday September 3, 2011.

Chargers trailed for the majority of the game, however a 15-point fourth-quarter gave New Haven the momentum heading into overtime as they pulled ahead to claim a 35-32 victory.

The win is New Haven’s third straight season-opening victory as they improve to 31-11 all-time in opening games. With the loss, the Golden Rams begin the 2011 campaign 0-1.

The Chargers were led by quarterback Ryan Osiecki’s four-touchdown performance. The junior threw for 194 yards on 16-of-27 passing and rushed for 54 yards on 14 attempts. He threw for three touchdowns including the game-winner to Josh Smart and rushed for another. Smart added 55 yards on five receptions in the game and easily walked into the end zone on the final play of the game to give New Haven the win.

The first half was quiet offensively for both squads. Heading into the second quarter, the Golden Rams held a 3-0 lead until a 28-yard reception from Demetrius Washington-Ellison put the Chargers ahead with the first touchdown of the game. New Haven claimed a 7-3 lead with 14:02 to play in the half.

The Golden Rams’ next possession totaled about five minutes as they completed the drive with a three-yard rushing touchdown from Jackson Fagan. The PAT was muffled, however, and West Chester could not convert the extra-point. They would tack on another three points with four seconds remaining to take a 12-7 lead heading into the break.

The second half was a completely different story for both teams. New Haven received the kick and with their first play of the half, Victor Jones gave the team some life with a 10-yard run for the first down. The Golden Rams’ defensive line put on the pressure on the second and third down though to force a punting situation. West Chester regained possession and in less than three minutes, they were back on the scoreboard with a 19-7 lead.

The Chargers would not back down as they retaliated on their next drive. The first play included a 19-yard gain from Osiecki to Smart. New Haven’s next set of downs included two rushes and a pass to set up a fourth-and-one scenario. In good field position and down by 12, the Chargers would go for it as Mike DeCaro leaped over the line for a three-yard gain. Following a penalty, the team would complete their next three plays, ending with a 24-yard touchdown from Washington-Ellison. After three quarters, West Chester led, 19-14.

The final 15 minutes of regulation went back-and-forth, much like the majority of the game. The Golden Rams completed an 11-yard touchdown from Matt Carroll to LaRonn Lee to go ahead 26-14 with 13:05 remaining. With a two possession lead, the game seemed out-of-reach.

The Chargers would remain composed and capped off a five-play drive on their next possession with a seven-yard touchdown from Anthony Tillman. West Chester went three-and-out on their next possession but a turnover by the Chargers gave the ball right back. Beginning the drive on their opponent’s side of the field, the Golden Rams marched all the way to New Haven’s 11-yard line. However, they were contained and forced to kick a 28-yard field goal to go ahead by eight, leaving the Chargers with just over four minutes to make a comeback.

Fortunately for the Chargers, four minutes was all they needed as they marched down the field with a mix of runs and passes. New Haven reached West Chester’s one-yard line and on his second try, Osiecki plowed his way through the defensive line to add six more points on the board. Down by two, they went for the two-point conversation. The first attempt failed, however a defensive pass interference gave the Chargers new life and they would take advantage. Osiecki dropped back and found Chris Ruffin in the back of the end zone to tie the game and eventually force overtime.

New Haven won the coin toss in extra minutes and deferred to defense. They forced consecutive incomplete passes, leaving West Chester to kick the field goal. The Chargers offense marched back on the field and three plays later, claimed a 35-32 victory as Osiecki found a wide open Smart for the game-winning score.

Jones was the leading rusher for New Haven with 57 yards on just 11 carries and Ruffin had a team-high 66 yards on six receptions. Defensively, Desmond Anderson and J.D. Chalifoux led the charge with nine total tackles each. Tom Herd, Charlie Hatchet, Mike Gomes and Scott Schultz all recorded a sack.

New Haven returns to the field on Saturday, September 10 to host Saint Augustine’s College. Game time is scheduled to start at 1 p.m.