UNION – Senior running back Jay Gwaltney posted his second straight 200-yard rushing game and scored four touchdowns to lift the Kean University football team to a 35-14 win over visiting Western Connecticut State University in New Jersey Athletic Conference action on Saturday afternoon.
The Cougars (3-3, 3-3 NJAC) snapped a two-game losing streak, as they kept the ball on the ground in the blustery conditions, running the ball 49 times out of the team’s 59 offensive plays.
Gwaltney carried the ball 26 times for 209 yards and accounted for more offense than the entire Colonial team.
The Cougars opened the game with the ball on their own 46-yard line after the short kickoff and kept the ball on the ground for all six plays of the opening drive, as Gwaltney sandwiched five carries for 29 yards around a 26-yard carry by senior fullback Sean Atkins and capped the six-play drive with the nine-yard touchdown run for the early 7-0 lead just 3:10 into the game.
Later in the first quarter, the Colonials (0-6, 0-5 NJAC) tied the game at 7-7 when senior Bobby Rathbun intercepted the Thomas D’Ambrisi pass and returned the ball 62 yards for the touchdown with 3:18 left in the first quarter.
After the Cougars again received the short kickoff at their own 45-yard line, Gwaltney ripped off a 46-yard touchdown run through the WestConn defense on the third play of the drive with less than two minutes remaining in the first quarter to give the Cougars the 14-7 lead after the extra point attempt.
In the second quarter, the Cougars added a pair of touchdowns to extend the lead to 27-7 at the break. D’Ambrisi scored on a 29-yard touchdown run midway through the quarter before Kean junior safety Jamahl Williams set-up a 12-yard touchdown run for Gwaltney with his team-leading seventh interception of the season, returning the ball to the WestConn 27-yard line with less than a minute remaining in the half. A WestConn penalty on the interception moved the ball into the redzone for the Cougars, where Gwaltney took the ball on the first play of the drive for his third touchdown of the game.
Another WestConn turnover helped set the Cougars final touchdown of the game in the third quarter when Kean junior defensive end Ray Wegrzynek intercepted the Colonial pass at the WestConn 16-yard line. On the first play of the ensuing drive, Gwaltney carried the ball 12 yards down to the two-yard line, before punching the ball in on the next play for his fourth score of the game. His four touchdowns are tied for the second most rushing touchdowns in Kean single game history.
The Colonials added a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, as sophomore quarterback Ronnie Bilodeau completed the 17-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Justin Cruickshanks to cap the nine-play, 50-yard drive with less than a minute remaining in the game.
Kean gained 347 of its 372 yards of the offense on the ground, with five different players totaling at least 20 yards rushing apiece.
For WestConn, sophomore running back Tyler DeRosa had 17 carries for 38 yards.
Defensively, junior linebacker Bekim Bujari made a game-high 11 tackles for Kean and had a pair of fumble recoveries. Senior Victor D’Arrigo had five tackles, including one sack for a six-yard loss, while sophomore Brett Yajcaji added four tackles, including two sacks for a 21-yard loss and a forced fumble. Williams totaled five tackles, while his seventh interception of the season moves him into second place in single season history.
For WestConn, senior defensive end Matt Pakulski had 10 tackles, including the team’s lone sack, and senior Cliff Rone added nine tackles.
The Cougars remain home next weekend for Homecoming festivities, hosting William Paterson University at 1 p.m.
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