In the win column: Football breaks through against Central Connecticut with the help of big plays

Senior+running+back+CJ+Amill+scored+his+first+of+three+touchdowns+against+CCSU+on+a+57-yard+punt+return%2C+the+teams+first+since+2007.+%28Courtesy+of+Athletic+Communications%29

Senior running back CJ Amill scored his first of three touchdowns against CCSU on a 57-yard punt return, the team’s first since 2007. (Courtesy of Athletic Communications)

Andrew Hollander

The Leopards football team won their first game of the season in five games, beating Central Connecticut 31-24 in front of a big crowd during Lafayette’s 2018 family weekend. Senior captain and running back C.J. Amill scored two rushing touchdowns and added a 57-yard punt return touchdown as the offense exploded for 31 points, more than the team scored total in the first four games of the season combined. Amill’s longest run of the night couldn’t have come at a better time, as he rushed the ball 23 yards for a touchdown with 33 seconds left to give the Leopards the lead and the 31-24 win.

It was the most complete game of the season for the Leopards as the defense, offense, and special teams all contributed to the win. The win was a balanced effort on the offensive end as Lafayette recorded a touchdown in each quarter of play. Head coach John Garrett commended the offense’s ability to execute and finish plays when they mattered the most.

“Our team really did a good job executing on all three sides of the ball,” Garrett said. “The special teams impacted the game with great coverage and the [punt] return. The defense made some big stops against a talented offense and kept the score down, and the offense certainly had their share of explosive plays and finished off drives. It was a complete team effort.”

Starting quarterback Sean O’Malley had the best game of his sophomore campaign, throwing 30-41 for a career-high 328 yards and a touchdown. After narrowly missing a number of long passes in the first four games of the season, O’Malley was able to connect with several receivers for impactful deep passes to set up scoring opportunities for the Leopards.

“[O’Malley] did a phenomenal job today, he was very calm and you could tell he was comfortable in what he was doing,” Amill said. “It definitely helped open up the run game for me.”

Nearly a third of O’Malley’s passing yards went to senior wide receiver Chris Granjean, who saw his first game action of his college career and racked up 104 receiving yards to go along with 16 rushing yards. Garrett credited Granjean’s strong work ethic for his breakout game against the Blue Devils.

“He steadily has improved and continued to work,” Garrett said. “He took advantage of his opportunity, and I’m proud of him and a lot of guys who impacted the game.”

The Leopards complemented the strong offensive play with stout defense, holding the Blue Devils to 364 yards while limiting CCSU to only 5-13 conversions on third down. Lafayette, by comparison, went 10-16 on third down, the best conversion rate of the season so far. After Amill’s late touchdown gave Lafayette the lead, freshman defensive lineman Billy Shaeffer forced a fumble on the Blue Devils’ ensuing drive and sophomore linebacker Major Jordan recovered the ball to seal the game. Jordan also finished with a team-high eight tackles.

The Leopards will have a bye week with no game before returning home to host Georgetown on Saturday, Oct. 13 at Fisher Stadium. The team will look to improve on their win and use the extra time to their advantage to prepare for the Hoyas.

“Getting a win before the bye week is everything, because we needed confidence going into this bye week,” Amill said. “Just having an extra week to prepare for Georgetown and league play is huge for us and couldn’t have happened at a better time.”

“Now the focus is winning out, and trying to get a ring,” he added. “That’s all we’re looking forward to.”

AJ Traub ’20 contributed reporting to this story.