Fitchburg, Mass – The weather was a warm Saturday afternoon, but the defense of the Fitchburg State University football team was piping hot, as the Falcons held Western Connecticut State University to just 96 yards in the second-half to close out a 17-14 Massachusetts Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) victory on Homecoming Weekend at Elliot Field.
After gaining a 17-14 lead on the leg of Christopher Ludwig, Fitchburg State defensive back Jovon White intercepted a bouncing ball to halt a promising possession of Western Connecticut in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter. The Colonials were unable to recover, turning the ball over on downs on back-to-back possessions by the stingy Falcons' defense to close out the contest.
Falcons' quarterback Connor Fitzsimmons and wide receiver Taylor Ekstrom clicked all game long, resulting in a pair of touchdowns and a game-high 13 grabs and 143 yards for Ekstrom. Freshman Fitzsimmons ended with a career-high 264 through the air, completing 23-of-42 passes (54.8%).
Western Connecticut got on the scoreboard first in the second quarter after an interception from linebacker Zach Connolly gave the team workable field possession - just four yards from the end zone. In just one play, junior tailback Kyle McKinnon powered up the middle and into the end zone for the first lead of the game.
It didn't take long for a response from Fitchburg State. On the next offensive possession, Fitzsimmons linked up with Ekstrom as he turned on the jets running parallel to the sidelines for a 46-yard catch-and-run to lock the game up at seven apiece just before the half time break.
Early in the third quarter Fitchburg State gained its first lead of the game as the Fitzsimmons-Ekstrom connection showed itself yet again – this time for an eight-yard touchdown pass, capping off a four minute, ten play drive for the Green and Gold.
The back-and-fourth battle continued with 4:35 minutes left in the third quarter as the Colonials defense came up with its third interception of the game to set up the offense with executable field possession. After driving 39 yards, Wester Connecticut re-tied the score at 14 as junior quarterback Quinn Fleeting found his target, classmate Roosevelt Ward, with a path to the pylon for a 14-yard touchdown.
With 9:46 left in the game, Fitchburg State's offense charged 62 yards down the field before separating themselves indefinitely when junior kicker Ludwig guided a field goal from 21-yards out through the uprights for the 17-14 advantage.
It was up to the Falcons defense to keep the slight margin in-tact, and they executed to perfection. On three offensive possessions inside the five-minute mark, the Colonials were held to just 14 yards – including White's interception and consecutive four-and-outs – giving Fitchburg State the first win in program history against Western Connecticut.
For the Falcons, Cyrick Watford and Mamour Samb finished with a team-high 11 tackles apiece while senior linebacker Malcolm-Brown Simpson contributed six stops. Senior defensive lineman Bryan Monaco ended with a game-high one sack for the Falcons. Fitzsimmons led all passers with his 264 yards of passing, throwing two touchdowns, and a trio of interceptions while Ekstrom finished with 13 catches to lead. the game. Freshman receiver Jesse Brown was targeted three times for 61 yards.
For the Colonial's, Kevin Maxen led all tacklers with 12 total while Nick Crowley added 10 himself. Junior quarterback Fleeting finished 11-of-32 (34%) with 150 yards and one touchdown pass. Junior running back McKinnon picked up a game-high 106 on the ground on 29 attempts. Freshman receiver Lucas DeSouza led his team with 47 yards on four grabs while Bobby Durham was targeted just once for a 37-yard gain.
Fitchburg State (3-4, 1-4 MASCAC) return to Elliot Field on October 29th for a MASCAC clash with Westfield State starting at 12:00 P.M. Western Connecticut (2-5, 1-4 MASCAC) host Worcester State on October 22nd at 5:00 P.M. during its own homecoming festivities at the Westside Athletic Complex.
Release Courtesy of Fitchburg State student journalist Kyle Prudhomme