Sunday, September 3, 2017

Huskies Football Drops Season Opener Against Stonehill Saturday Afternoon

Photo Courtesy of Bloomsburg University Sports Information
BLOOMSBURG, Pa. - The Bloomsburg University football team allowed 17 unanswered points to visiting Stonehill College in the opening nine minutes of the game and could not rebound as the Skyhawks left Danny Hale Field at Robert B. Redman Stadium with a 44-28 victory over the Huskies in the season opener for both teams on Saturday afternoon. The Huskies dropped to 4-2 lifetime against the Skyhawks and lost for the just the second time in their last 18 home openers dating back to the 2000 season.

The visitors scored on their opening possession when Andrew Jamiel got behind the Huskies' secondary and caught a 63-yard pass from quarterback Matt Foltz to put the first points on the scoreboard just 1:13 into the contest. Matthew Haite added the extra point for a 7-0 lead. Then, after the Huskies went three-and-out on their ensuing drive, the Skyhawks marched down the field - converting two fourth-down attempts along the way - and tacked on seven more points when Foltz found Zac Pungitore on a 15-yard pitch-and-catch down the right sideline. The scoring play capped off a 13-play, 61-yard drive and, after Haite added the extra point, Bloomsburg found itself down 14-0 with 8:45 left in the first quarter.

The Huskies again went three-and-out on their next drive and Stonehill would add three more points on a 25-yard field goal from Haite to take a 17-0 lead with 6:03 remaining in the opening stanza.

Bloomsburg would put things together on its next offensive series, culminating in a four-yard touchdown pass from redshirt senior Chris Palubinsky (Ringtown, Pa./Shenandoah Valley) to senior tight end Aaron Allison (Philadelphia, Pa./Frankford) for the team's first points of the 2017 season. The Huskies drove 85 yards on eight plays, aided by a 57-yard strike from Palubinsky to redshirt sophomore Jay Popson (Mountain Top, Pa./Crestwood) to get the ball on the Stonehill half of the field for the first time on the afternoon. Popson, who was making his first collegiate start at wide receiver on Saturday afternoon, finished with seven catches for 121 yards - the first time a Huskies' receiver eclipsed 100 yards receiving in a game since Connor Gades had 102 receiving yards against Lock Haven on November 7, 2015.

Stonehill added a 31-yard field goal from Haite with 12:01 left in the first half as the Skyhawks took a 20-7 lead into the locker room at halftime.

The Huskies got to within six at the outset of the third quarter as Bloomsburg's offense drove 80 yards on 13 plays, capped off by a 19-yard touchdown run from Quiteh with 8:17 left in the frame. Quiteh had six carries for 45 yards on the drive while Palubinsky completed four of his six pass attempts on the possession.

But, the Bloomsburg defense got a steady dose of Stonehill's Brian Kearns Jr. the rest of the way and the Huskies seemingly had no answer for the running back. Kearns carried the ball five consecutive times for 50 yards on the Skyhawks' next drive, but, after an incomplete pass and a one-yard rush from Foltz, the Huskies forced Haite to convert his third field goal of the afternoon - a 44-yarder - with 5:41 left in the third quarter as Stonehill took a 23-14 lead.

Then came the turning point of the game.

Bloomsburg's ensuing drive stalled at its own 38-yard line and sophomore Kieron Smethers (Wellsboro, Pa./Wellsboro Area) was brought in to punt the ball away. However, Stonehill's Andy Steck had a clear path to the Huskies' punter, blocked the kick, and Nicolau Coury recovered the ball at the Bloomsburg 12-yard line. Three plays later, the Skyhawks were back in the endzone on a one-yard plunge from Foltz to give the visitors a 30-14 lead with 2:51 left in the third quarter. The Huskies then appeared to hold Stonehill to a missed field goal on the Skyhawks next drive early in the fourth quarter. But, a roughing the kicker penalty kept Stonehill's drive alive and the visitors took advantage of the infraction by getting back into the endzone on a six-yard touchdown run from Kearns Jr. with 11:14 left in regulation. Haite added the extra point to give the Skyhawks a 37-14 advantage.

The Huskies scored quickly on their next drive as Palubinsky hooked up with redshirt sophomore Michael Allen (Oley, Pa./Oley Valley) on a 17-yard touchdown pass with 8:54 left. Palubinsky then found sophomore Ethan Price (Coopersburg, Pa./Southern Lehigh)as the Huskies added the two-point conversion to cut the lead to 37-22. But, Foltz connected with Kevin Dick on a 26-yard touchdown catch on Stonehill's next drive to essentially seal the Huskies' fate. Palubinsky added a six-yard touchdown run with 3:14 left in regulation for the game's final scoring.

Bloomsburg attempted onside kicks after both the Allen touchdown and the Palubinsky score but were unable to recover either.

The Huskies finished the afternoon with 344 yards of total offense while Stonehill had 439 total yards and ran 11 more plays than Bloomsburg. The difference came on the ground where the Skyhawks held a 164-79 yard edge in that department.

Quiteh led Bloomsburg on the ground with career-highs in both carries (15) and yards (74). He also scored his first rushing touchdown of the season and the third of his career. Palubinsky had, arguably, the best day of his career throwing the football as he finished by completing 19-of-37 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. The yardage total was two shy of tying his career-high while it marked the first time in his career that he threw for more than one touchdown in a game. Popson, who entered with two career catches for 27 yards, finished with seven catches for 121 yards to become Palubinsky's favorite target. Allen hauled in six catches for 78 yards and one touchdown.

Kearns Jr., however, was the difference over the course of the final thirty minutes, as he rushed for 132 second-half yards and finished the afternoon with 135 yards rushing on 24 carries. Foltz had an effective day throwing as he finished 22-of-35 for 275 yards and three scores. Jamiel, who caught the 63-yard touchdown just over a minute into the game to set the tone, finished with seven catches for 120 yards.

Redshirt senior Ezra Ranco (Trappe, Pa./Perkiomen Valley) led the Huskies with eight total tackles, one sack, one and a-half tackles for a loss, and a pass breakup. Redshirt senior Scott Beltz (Pen Argyl, Pa./Pen Argyl) added seven stops. Stonehill's Nick Bona led all defenders with nine tackles and two tackles for a loss.

The 44 points allowed by the Huskies marked the most given up in a game since a 58-20 loss at Shippensburg in the 2012 NCAA playoffs on November 17, 2012 and were the most allowed by a Bloomsburg team in a season-opener since a 47-37 setback against New Haven to open the 1999 campaign.

The Huskies will look for their first victory of the young season when they head to Clarion University next Saturday, September 9. Kickoff from Memorial Stadium is set for 1:00 p.m.

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