RINDGE — After splitting their first two collegiate games against Division III opponents, the Franklin Pierce Ravens tackled their first Division II foe Saturday; or, more accurately, they fell flat, losing 52-7 to Northeast-10 rival Pace University at FPU’s Sodexo Field.
The Ravens, playing before more than 2,000 fans in their inaugural Division II game, got a taste of what that level of competition will be like in their third straight home game, and it wasn’t pretty. Actually, it’s the score that wasn’t pretty, the result of 24 fourth-quarter points by Pace and multiple mistakes by the Ravens. But Franklin Pierce was largely competitive, repeatedly shooting itself in the foot at the worst moments.
Right off, the Ravens gave up a safety on a bad snap while attempting a punt on their first possession. The ball sailed through the end zone, giving Pace a safety and a 2-0 lead. That soon became 9-0 on a 36-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Ramir Tann-Davis, and 12-0 after a penalty-aided drive.
Franklin Pierce moved the football on offense, but was mistake-prone when it came to cashing those drives into points. The Ravens outrushed Pace 156-112, behind freshman K.O. Gaskin’s 83 yards and Chazz Bryant’s 42. He scored Franklin Pierce’s lone touchdown.
Bryant’s TD run closed the gap to 12-7 and, after a defensive stand, the home team looked to take a lead early in the second quarter. But a block-in-the-back call on receiver Sekou Veillard negated what would have been a long touchdown catch, killing the drive and the Ravens’ momentum.
Pace scored on its next possession as senior quarterback Carlton Aiken hit fellow senior Darius Jones on a 53-yard touchdown pass to with 8:07 to play in the half.
The Ravens looked to have another good drive developing, but were flagged again, this time for holding, on a big completion to Nate Selby by a scrambling QB Drew Campanale on second down at the Pierce 42.
At that point, the Ravens’ defense seemed to lose its swagger and Pace would add another touchdown and two-point conversion before the half to make it 28-7. FPU would not be able to recover as Pace would pour on 24 more points in the fourth quarter.
The Ravens had their chances in the third quarter, particularly a fourth-and-goal on Pace’s 2 yard-line, but lost three yards on the play.
“It was a bad play call by me,” Coach Russell Gaskamp said. “I was disappointed in myself for that.”
Overall, though, he saw progress.
“Pace was a team that was very similar to what we faced in Week 1, and tonight penalties just killed us in a game where I thought we were very competitive,” Gaskamp said.
Franklin Pierce had seven total penalties for 79 yards, and most of them came at turning points in the game such as those two second quarter drives. The Setters had 10 penalties themselves for 110 yards.
Campanale was sacked five times for a loss of 37 yards, adding to the team’s rough introduction to Saturday night college football.
Despite the score, Franklin Pierce managed 319 total yards on 86 offensive plays. But the secondary continues to be work in progress, allowing 325 yards through the air.
“We’re a lot better than what we were a couple weeks ago,” Gaskamp said. “If we can just continue to improve every week and stay healthy, by the end of this we’re going to be a pretty good football team.”
One area that irked the coach was the bad snap that led to the early safety.
“We need to work on our snaps on special teams plays,” he said. “Too many times we have made mistakes there and that needs to change.”
Gaskamp did, in fact, make a change in special teams before this game, as Brian Carey replaced freshman Harchdy Souffrance at punter. The junior punted three times for 96 yards.
Pace quarterback Carlton Aiken completed 15 of 27 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns. His deep ball accuracy burned the Ravens as his three scores were 36, 53, and 53 yards. Backup Brandon Simmons added a touchdown of his own. Wide receiver Darius Jones hauled in six catches for 114 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore Tann-Davis had two touchdowns in two catches for 89 yards. Graduate student Jhalen Bien-Aime used his quick feet and breakaway speed to burn the Ravens defense for 94 yards and two TDs on 18 carries.
For the Ravens, Campanale completed 17-of-21 passes for 156 yards, with an interception.
Selby continued to make standout catches and has become one of Campanale’s most trusted targets early in the season. He had only two catches for 37 yards on the night, but led the team at the position.
The night game drew 2,207 fans for Homecoming and Family Day at Franklin Pierce. “It was a great crowd and we are just always so happy to have the support of our fans which we hope will only continue to grow,” said Gaskamp.
The Ravens (1-2) will have a short trip for their first road game against Assumption (2-1) in Worcester, Mass., this Saturday at noon.