BOWIE – The Bowie State University football team showed it was on a mission to remain atop the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA), going up by 20 points at halftime and riding behind a vigorous bounce-back performance by quarterback Gaston Cooper to coast to a 42-14 win over Alderson Broaddus (W. Va.) in its home opener on Sept. 21.
In Bowie’s first two games, Cooper’s completion percentage was well under 50%, but he was able to show slight improvement against the Battlers. The 6-foot redshirt junior completed eight of 14 passes for 187 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 29 yards on seven carries for another score to help Bowie remain unbeaten.
Offensively, the Bulldogs (3-0) amassed 492 total yards while allowing Alderson Broaddus into the red zone once during the game. Bowie State Head Coach Damon Wilson said his players need to cut down on a few blunders on both ends of the field, but felt his guys posted a solid all-around performance.
“I think we played well. We still got to eliminate some of the unnecessary penalties and executing on third down, but all in all, I think the guys played well,” said Wilson, who’s in his 11th year as head of the program. “I think defensively we did a pretty good job. We still got to eliminate some of the big plays. We gave them a couple of third-down conversions that we shouldn’t have. In the secondary, we got to communicate a little better so we can clean that up.”
The Bulldogs offense had somewhat of a shaky start on the first few snaps of the game, but Cooper quickly shook off the early-game jitters and tossed a 33-yard pass to wide receiver Victor Olayinka not even two minutes into the game to put Bowie up 7-0 after its opening drive.
Bowie State limited Alderson Broaddus’ rushing game all afternoon. On 25 rushing attempts, the Battlers (0-3) only tallied 18 yards on the ground. The Bulldogs added two more touchdowns in the second quarter – one on an 11-yard run by Cooper and the other on a 27-yard pass from Cooper to Geordan Clark – to give themselves a 21-point cushion heading into the third quarter.
Cooper logged one more scoring play before back-up quarterback Ja’rome Johnson took over for him for the remainder of the game. With a little more than 10 minutes remaining in the third, Cooper hit receiver DuShon David in stride for a spectacular 75-yard touchdown to enliven the crowd and the sideline.
Wilson said Cooper has made substantial improvements since the season opener when he threw 5-for-16 for 38 yards and two interceptions.
“Gaston is coming along. He’s getting better each game. Made some mistakes earlier in the game, but he was able to get us ahead going into halftime,” Wilson said of Cooper. “And I just like to see his progression with regards to reading the defense and that sort of thing, so he’s doing a much better job than what he did Game 1.”
After Johnson scored on a 10-yard carry, defensive back Tevin Singleton recorded a 42-yard interception return to put Bowie up, 42-7, with 10:09 left in the fourth.
Thus far, the Bulldogs are winning by an average margin of about 16 points, and certainly have no intentions of slowing down. According to the most recent American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) poll, the Bulldogs are ranked No. 23 in the nation among Division II football teams.
“We’re still missing on little things, it’s still a working progress but overall the results speak for itself. I’m very happy that we (got) the win. Getting a W is always a good feeling,” Cooper said.“I’m very proud of what we came out here and did, especially in front of the home crowd.”
David finished with three catches for 107 yards and a touchdown, and Olayinka and Clark combined for 65 yards on four receptions and a touchdown apiece. The team chemistry is developing, added Cooper, a transfer from Duquesne.
“We’re coming together well. The first two weeks we didn’t come out looking too good. We kind of had hiccups here and there, and a lot of the responsibility falls on the quarterback’s shoulders,” Copper said. “But now we really came out and hit in terms of run game, pass game, pretty much everything that we were looking for was there for us.”
Quarterback Joe Czelusniak led the way for Alderson Broaddus with 271 passing yards on 20 of 40 attempts and one interception. He threw an 18-yarder to Zack Lake and a 49-yarder to Dominic Pegley in the second half. Battlers defensive tackle recorded a game-high seven tackles, two of which were sacks. Anthony Howard had a team-high six tackles for the Bulldogs.
Bowie State will begin conference play Sept. 28 as it hosts CIAA Southern Division opponent Saint Augustine’s. When asked about the potential match-up, Wilson outlined what the focus will be as his team prepares to open CIAA play.
“Our goal is to go 1-0 each week and to get better each week,” he said. “So I don’t care who the opponent is, if it’s a conference game or a non-conference game, we just gotta get better each week. This week, we’re going to focus on communication so we’ll be ready for Saint Aug.”