BRIDGEWATER, Mass. – The Salve Regina University football team had to hang on late as they survived a second half rally from Bridgewater State University to win 33-27 after leading 27-0 at halftime.
Steven Wilken (Ringwood, N.J.) completed 13 of 22 passes for 143 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for another score to lead the Seahawk offense. Senior captain Dan Buonocore (Mahwah, N.J.) rushed for a game-high 144 yards on 25 carries as the Seahawks racked up 377 yards of total offense.
Wilken found the end zone on a five-yard run and tossed touchdown passes of 16 and three yards, respectively, to Matthew Traynor (Secaucus, N.J.) and Michael Mahoney (Mahwah, N.J.). Sam Pascale (Chesire, Conn.) capped off the first half scoring with a two-yard touchdown run.
Salve Regina's veteran defense dominated the first half holding the Bears to just 58 yards of offense and the Seahawks seemed ready to cruise to victory leading 27-0 at halftime.
David Console started the second half comeback for the Bears with a 75-yard fumble return for a touchdown. Quarterback Danny Higgins then connected with Michael Viola on a 47-yard score to cut the deficit to 27-13.
Following Viola's touchdown, Alex Hulme (Hopkinton, Mass.) returned the ensuing kickoff 67 yards which set up a Mitch Graziano (Kingston, Mass.) seven-yard touchdown run to give the Seahawks a 33-13 advantage. The seven-play 33-yard drive was kept alive by a pair of BSU penalties on third down situations.
The Bears answered with a seven-play, 68-yard drive which resulted in a Matt Green 25-yard touchdown catch early in the fourth quarter. Bridgewater would then make it a one-score game with 6:02 remaining. On third and 14 from the nine, Higgins connected with Viola on a long out pattern and the BSU sophomore raced 91 yards into the end zone to cut the deficit to 33-27.
Bridgewater had a shot to win the game after stopping the Seahawks on the ensuing drive. However the Salve Regina defense rose to the occasion and forced the Bears to turn the ball over on downs. The Seahawks would run out the clock and escape with the win in the season opener.
Overall for the Bears, Danny Higgins threw for 224 yards and three touchdowns in his first collegiate start with BSU. Higgins completed 16 of 27 passes and also rushed for a team-best 34 yards in the loss. Michael Viola hauled in a pair of long touchdown passes as he recorded four receptions for 153 yards. Matt Green led all players with ten catches for 73 receiving yards.
Salve Regina has now beaten Bridgewater State in consecutive season openers and has won the first game of the season five years in a row.
The Bears next travel to William Paterson University to take on the Pioneers, while the Salve Regina Seahawks will host the Red Hawks of Montclair State University in the home opener at Gaudet Field at noon on Saturday, September 13.