Four Years in the Making

The date was Nov.20, 2010 and the Bloomsburg football team just came off a 28-26 win over PSAC Rival California in the first round of the playoffs. The win was a hard fought one, and little did the Huskies know that day, but they would have to wait more than four years to celebrate their next postseason win.

Since the California game, Bloomsburg has lost three consecutive playoff games, all to PSAC opponents Mercyhurst in 2010 (28-14), Shippensburg (58-20) in 2012, and West Chester (40-38) in 2013. The streak came to an end on Saturday, as the Huskies dominated CIAA Champion Virginia State 35-14. The win also marked the first postseason win since 2008 when Bloomsburg took down West Chester 28-21 at Redman Stadium.

 

Captain Justin Shirk was all over the field from his   linebacker position. Tallying a game-high 12 tackles, and 2.5 sacks.  (Bloomsburg University Sports Information)
Captain Justin Shirk was all over the field from his
linebacker position. Tallying a game-high 12 tackles, and 2.5 sacks.
(Bloomsburg University Sports Information)

Since the California game, Bloomsburg has lost three consecutive playoff games, all to PSAC opponents Mercyhurst in 2010 (28-14), Shippensburg (58-20) in 2012, and West Chester (40-38) in 2013. The streak came to an end on Saturday, as the Huskies dominated CIAA Champion Virginia State 35-14. The win also marked the first postseason win since 2008 when Bloomsburg took down West Chester 28-21 at Redman Stadium.

Quarterback Tim Kelly and running back Eddie Mateo led the charge offensively, as they combined for four touchdowns (Kelly three), and 157 rushing yards (Mateo 127). DJ McFadden led the team in receiving yards with 61 yards, with 58 of them coming off a bomb from Kelly in the second quarter.

Justin Shirk showed why he is considered the best linebacker in the country, racking up 12 tackles (1.5 for loss), two-and-a-half sacks and two passes broken up. The defensive line combined for five sacks with Tony David (2.5) leading the way. Ezra Ranco added a sack-and-a-half, and seven tackles total. Cornerback Donovan Morris had a game changing interception in the second quarter on the Huskies own 19-yard line.

Bloomsburg received the ball to start the game, and they wasted no time in putting seven points on the board. Mateo returned from an ankle injury that held the senior out of the Lock Haven game in the final week of the regular season, and severally hampered him in the PSAC Championship game against Slippery Rock. The Bethlehem native carried the ball seven times, concluding with a 21-yard sprint off the weak side for his 24th touchdown on the season. The Huskies led 7-0 with 11 minutes left in the first quarter.

Virginia State answered though with a quick five-play drive that lasted just over two minutes. The Trojans faced a first-and-ten on the fifty yard line when receiver Jaiv Smallwood hit the Huskies secondary with a mean double move. Quarterback Tarian Ayres floated a pass in which Smallwood ran under for six. The touchdown was the first that the Huskies let up on a team’s opening drive all season, and tied the game at 7-7.

Later in the first quarter the Huskies started a drive at their own 35-yard line, and rode the arm of Kelly on an eight-play drive that set up a tough 42-yard field goal attempt for kicker Brayden Drexler. The Virginia State front stepped up and blocked Drexlers kick, and returned it 46 yards to the Bloomsburg 19-yard line. The block ended the first quarter with the game tied 7-7.

The Huskies defense led the PSAC in interceptions this season, and that ability to find the ball came in handy on the ensuing drive. Morris intercepted a tipped Ayres pass on the first play of the drive, and returned it nine yards to the 19. After the dust settled, from the two big mistakes, the score was still tied at seven.

After both teams punted, the Huskies found themselves with the ball at their own 44-yard line. Bloomsburg’s dedication to the run paid off, and the Trojans defense stacked the box expecting a handoff to Mateo. Kelly faked the hand off though, and lofted a ball to the speedy McFadden who was wide open for a 58-yard pass. The Huskies held a 14-7, as the home crowd awoke. Bloomsburg clearly stole momentum, and would not trail or tie again.

The Bloomsburg defense left little time for Virginia St. quarterback,   Tarian Ayres, to throw. Sacking him a total of eight times.  (Bloomsburg University Sports Information)
The Bloomsburg defense left little time for Virginia St. quarterback,
Tarian Ayres, to throw. Sacking him a total of eight times.
(Bloomsburg University Sports Information)

Playing from behind was clearly not Virginia States forte, as they lean heavily on their running game. The Huskies did not allow Ayres anytime to throw, and the secondary was all over the VSU receiving corps.

After two punts from the VSU offense, Bloomsburg set up at their own 40 with just over two minutes left. The Husky play calling was brilliant, as they did not allow the Trojans defense to get a beat on them, and after eight plays they were six yards from scoring.

Kelly’s legs have been a weapon all season, and they were used in the red zone. The Camp Hill native faked a handoff to Mateo, and booted to his left where he saw nothing but the green turf of Hale field, and walked in for six. Kelly’s score put Bloomsburg up 21-7 as they headed into halftime.

Virginia State received the ball first in the third quarter, with a mindset where they needed to score immediately. The drive started off well as they had runs of seven, and nine yards back-to-back. But on a third-and-11, Ayres was sacked by Ranco and defensive end Joe Wetty, who forced a fumble. The ball was recovered by Wetty, and the Huskies had great field position at the VSU 40-yard line.

Quarterback Tim Kelly now has eight rushing touchdowns   on the season after accumulating a trio of scores against VSU.  (Bloomsburg University Sports Information)
Quarterback Tim Kelly now has eight rushing touchdowns
on the season after accumulating a trio of scores against VSU.
(Bloomsburg University Sports Information)

On the ensuing drive Mateo had runs of 11 yards and 20 yards to set the offense up with a first-and-goal from the nine yard line. After a five-yard pass to receiver Trent Daniels, Kelly faked a throw and sprinted up the middle for a four yard run, and his second score of the day. Kelly’s run gave Bloomsburg a commanding 28-7 lead with 9:36 left in the third quarter.

The dagger came at the end of the third quarter when BU set up at their own 28-yard line. The play calling continued to mix the ground and air, as they went on a nine-play 72-yard drive that was concluded with a one-yard quarterback sneak by Kelly, which gave Bloomsburg an insurmountable 35-7 lead with a little more than a minute left in the third quarter. VSU would score a garbage time touchdown late in the fourth quarter, but it would be too late.

Next week the Huskies will travel to West Virginia to face an undefeated Concord team (12-0) who are coming off their first ever playoff win, 51-36 over West Chester. Though the Mountain Lions have minimal postseason experience, they come into the game with an offense that is scoring 45.7 point-per-game. Next weekend’s battle will surely be a good one, as the Huskies strength lies in their aggressive defense. Kickoff will be a 12 p.m.

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