Saturday, September 3, 2016

Football - Huskies Escapes With Season-Opening Win At Stonehill Friday

Photo Courtesy of Bloomsburg University Athletics
EASTON, Mass. – It was a tale of two halves at W.B. Mason Stadium on Friday night. Fortunately for the Bloomsburg University football team, its first half was slightly better than Stonehill's second half.

The Huskies did all of their damage in the first half and escaped Stonehill with a 24-20 victory in front of a near capacity crowd in the season opener for both teams. Bloomsburg avenged last year's season-opening 27-10 loss to the Skyhawks and improved to 4-1 lifetime against its rival from the Northeast-10 Conference.

Senior running back Lawrence Elliott Jr. (Utica, N.Y./Thomas R. Proctor) finished the night with 107 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries while redshirt senior Joe Parsnik (Wilkes-Barre, Pa./Coughlin) added 76 yards on 11 carries on the ground. However, most of that damage was done in the first half as the Huskies could muster only seven total yards of offense in the second half.

But, the defense came up with big plays when it needed to thanks, in large part, to redshirt senior Ezra Ranco (Trappe, Pa./Perkiomen Valley) and redshirt sophomore Chris Gary (Philadelphia, Pa./Archbishop Wood). Ranco blocked a field goal and recovered a fumble in the fourth quarter while Gary came with a heavy pass rush on back-to-back plays during Stonehill's final drive – one that resulted in an intentional grounding penalty while the other culminated in an 11-yard sack on the Skyhawks' final play.

Bloomsburg had 316 yards of offense in the first half and outgained the Skyhawks 316-155 in the opening thirty minutes. Stonehill turned the tide in the second half, outgaining Bloomsburg 242-7  to finish with a 74 yard edge in total offense (397-323). However, Stonehill was able to score just ten points and fell four points shy of a comeback.

Elliott, Jr. had a monster first half for the Huskies, carrying the ball 13 times for 112 yards and a career-high-tying three touchdowns. The senior running back set the tone early, capping off an eight-play, 75-yard drive with a four-yard touchdown run on Bloomsburg's opening possession of the 2016 campaign. Redshirt sophomoreRyan Abbott (Hagerstown, Md./Saint James School) added the extra point and the Huskies led 7-0 with 11:07 left in the opening quarter.

Then, after an interception by redshirt senior Jerrin Toomey (York, Pa./West York) near midfield, Bloomsburg's ensuing drive stalled at the Stonehill five-yard line and the Huskies had to settle for Abbott's first collegiate field goal – a 22-yarder – to give the visitors a 10-0 lead with 6:48 left in the opening quarter.

Stonehill fought back and scored the game's next ten points to knot the game at 10-10. Mike Cordova capped a 10-play, 62-yard drive with a nine-yard run with 1:50 left in the opening quarter to cut the Huskies' lead to 10-7. Matthew Haite added a 36-yard field goal with 10:13 left in the first half to tie the score.

But, Elliott, Jr. took over from there.

After a touchback gave the ball to the Huskies at their own 25-yard line, Elliott, Jr. took a handoff from redshirt junior quarterback Chris Palubinsky (Ringtown, Pa./Shenandoah Valley), scampered around left end, sprinted down the sideline, and scored from 75 yards out to put the Huskies ahead, after Abbott's extra point, 17-10. It marked a career-long run for Elliott, Jr. and put the back over the century mark for the first half.

Bloomsburg, and its senior running back, were not done.

The Huskies forced a punt from Justin Kaffenberger and got the ball back with 9:11 left in the half. Seventeen plays, 63 yards, and 8:12 later, Elliott, Jr. powered his way into the endzone from a yard out to give the Huskies a two-touchdown lead as the teams headed to the locker room.

All told, Bloomsburg outgained Stonehill, 187-65, on the ground in the first half and held a 316-155 overall margin in total offense after thirty minutes. Palubinsky, making his first collegiate start, looked impressive, and completing 9-of-15 passes for 129 yards.

As impressive as the Huskies' offense was in the first half, it went south in the third quarter as the Skyhawks pulled to within a touchdown after three.

Stonehill quarterback Matt Foltz provided the only points of the quarter, plunging in from one-yard out to culminate a 13-play, 55-yard drive that consumed just over five minutes of time to cut the lead to 24-17 with 5:06 left. Then, after Palubinsky was picked off at midfield, Bloomsburg was able to dodge a bullet thanks to a blocked 40-yard field goal attempt by Ranco.

The Huskies managed just ten offensive yards in the third quarter while Stonehill racked up 118 yards of offense.

With the Skyhawks driving at the outset of the fourth quarter, the Huskies' defense came up with a game-saving turnover. After a pass completion to the Bloomsburg 10-yard line, redshirt senior Marquez Norford(Harrisburg, Pa./Susquehanna Township) forced a fumble that was recovered by Ranco to give the Huskies the ball back. But, Bloomsburg's offense continued its cold spell and was forced to punt after a three-and-out.

Stonehill drove down the field again against the Huskies' defense, but had to settle for a 30-yard field goal by Haite with 4:18 left. The Skyhawks got to the Bloomsburg six-yard line and had a first-and-goal before a critical chop blocking penalty hurt the drive.

Bloomsburg, which lost three yards in the fourth quarter, was forced to punt again setting up Stonehill's final drive. But, the Huskies' defense stiffened and kept the Skyhawks out of the endzone.

Palubinsky finished his first collegiate start by completing 11-of-21 passes for 139 yards and one interception. Redshirt junior tight end Aaron Allison (Philadelphia, Pa./Frankford), who missed all of last season with an injury, caught four passes for 32 yards. Redshirt freshman Michael Allen (Oley, Pa./Oley Valley) had two catches for 44 yards.

Cordova had a solid game for the Skyhawks finishing with 19 carries for 91 yards and one touchdown. He also caught four passes for 29 yards. Foltz finished 23-of-39 for 224 yards and one pick.

Defensively, redshirt senior Andrew Harris (Bethlehem, Pa./Whitehall) led the way with nine total tackles and a forced fumble. Redshirt sophomore Nate Monroe (Harrisburg, Pa./Bishop McDevitt) had eight stops while redshirt junior Eric Schwartz (York, Pa./Central York) had seven tackles and a tackle for a loss.

Ryan Doherty led Stonehill with ten tackles.

The Huskies will have an extra day to get ready for PSAC Western Division-rival, Clarion University. The Golden Eagles will invade Redman Stadium on Saturday, September 10, for Bloomsburg's home opener. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:00 p.m.

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