By Todd Hummel
For The Daily Item
In his long career as a head coach, it’s a feeling Bloomsburg coach Danny Hale has felt before.
“Everybody gets that look, the coaches, the players. You get that stare,” Hale said. “You are trying your hardest and nothing is going right. You get frustrated.”
That’s how the Huskies head man summed up the second half of Saturday’s NCAA Division II first-round playoff game with Shippensburg University — helpless, watching as the Red Raiders took control of the momentum and with it the game.
Shippensburg scored touchdowns on seven consecutive possessions in the second half to end the Huskies’ season with a 58-20 thrashing at SU Student Association Field at Seth Grove Stadium.
“They started to pick up the momentum and we couldn’t stop them,” Hale said. “We needed something good to happen (in the third quarter) — score a touchdown, get a stop — but we just couldn’t do it.”
Shippensburg (11-1) posted its first playoff win since a 34-33 victory over East Stroudsburg on Nov. 23, 1991. The Red Raiders will travel to play the top-seeded team in the region, undefeated Winston-Salem State, next week at noon.
The nation’s top-ranked offense had been in a slump before the second half of Saturday’s game. Shippensburg managed just 10 points in last week’s loss in the PSAC Championship game to Indiana (Pa.), their first loss in 13 months.
In the first half of the game with the Huskies, Shippensburg managed just one touchdown and had two drives stopped inside the Bloomsburg 10, one on downs and the other by missed field goal.
“We were getting off the field. We held them to three points a few times and got a couple of big fourth-down stops,” Bloomsburg linebacker Jarrett Pigdeon said. “We knew we wouldn’t be able to stop them like that for so long — they are so explosive — but we have to execute (defensively) better than we did in the second half.”
The Huskies took the opening kickoff and marched 61 yards in nine plays, eight of which were Franklyn Quiteh carries. The junior running back scored from 3 yards out with 9:58 left in the first quarter to give Bloomsburg a 7-0 lead.
Shippensburg took a 10-7 lead midway through the second quarter, but Bloomsburg answered with another 3-yard TD run by Quiteh with 1:48 left in the first half. It looked like the Huskies would take a 14-10 lead into halftime by forcing a Shippensburg punt with 30 seconds left in the half. However, the ball hit a Bloomsburg player downfield and Shippensburg recovered with 19 seconds left at the Bloomsburg 26.
Though the Red Raiders only kicked a 31-yard field goal as time expired, Hale thought the momentum started to shift.
“We called a timeout to stop the clock to maybe block the punt and, in hindsight because of what happened, it looks like the wrong decision,” Hale said. “But we were playing well at that point, but you could just feel a switch when (that turnover) happened.”
Shippensburg opened the second half with a quick touchdown drive (a four-play, 67-yard march that consumed just 45 seconds), capped by a Zach Zulli 48-yard touchdown pass to Bryan Barley to take a 20-14 lead with 14:15 left in the third.
After a punt and a Shippensburg field goal made it 23-14, the Huskies made one last drive deep into Red Raiders territory. Bloomsburg had a first-and-10 on the Shippensburg 11, but a Quiteh fumble gave the ball back to the hot Red Raiders’ offense.
Shippensburg ripped off an 85-yard drive in seven plays to open a 30-14 advantage on a 1-yard sneak by Zulli.
By the time the third quarter was over, Shippensburg had seized 37-14 lead and had taken over the game. The Red Raiders rolled up 266 yards in the third quarter — 20 more yards than they totaled in the first half. Shippensburg finished the game with 673 yards of total offense.
Quiteh finished with 199 yards rushing and two scores in the game. He went over 2,000 yards for the season and finished his junior year with 2,121 yards and 24 touchdowns. Quiteh now has 5,328 yards in his career and currently sits third on the all-time PSAC list and second in Bloomsburg’s career annals. The PSAC and Bloomsburg career-rushing leader is Jamar Brittingham, who had 5,689 yards from 2004-2007.