By The Daily Item
ERIE -- In a matchup featuring two teams averaging 40 points per game on the season, many of the 1,748 in attendance at Gannon University Field may have expected a shootout between the host Golden Knights and the ninth-ranked Bloomsburg Huskies.
It was the Huskies' defense that stole the show, however, forcing turnovers and never allowing Gannon to gain much traction offensively as part of a 38-14 Bloomsburg victory in a contest between two first place squads.
Bloomsburg keeps its record perfect at 5-0 on the year while Gannon, which stands in a tie for first in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Western Division, falls to 3-2.
The Huskies limited Gannon to a season-low 276 total yards including only 72 yards on the ground. The defense kept Gannon running back Jansen Jones in check by holding Jones, who entered the day third in the nation in rushing with 657 yards through four games, to 69 yards on the ground.
Conversely, Huskies senior running back Franklyn Quiteh bettered his Division II-best season average of 197 yards rushing per game by picking up a season-high 251 yards on 24 carries to go along with two touchdowns. It marked the 10th game of over 200 yards rushing in Quiteh's career. He also moved to ninth all-time in Division II history with 6,367 career rushing yards.
The early going saw a defensive struggle as neither team could crack into the scoring column during the first quarter of play. An eight-minute explosion on both sides of the ball broke the game open for the visitors, however.
Bloomsburg broke the scoring drought in the second quarter when quarterback Tim Kelly found fullback Derek Burkhard on a screen pass — Burkhard was able to make the most of his first career reception as the redshirt sophomore rumbled 42 yards for the touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
Bloomsburg's defense would play a key role in the team's next score.
Derek Burkhard broke off a 42-yard catch and run for the game's first touchdown.With Gannon driving into Husky territory, Jonathan Patrick intercepted Liam Nadler's pass and brought the pick back 34 yards to set up BU with great field position. Three players later — an 8-yard reverse to Lawrence Elliott Jr. and two runs by Quiteh — the Huskies were back in the end zone following a 21-yard burst by the PSAC's all-time leading rusher.
Another key moment from the Huskies secondary set up another touchdown. D.J. Robinson picked off Nadler at the Bloomsburg 45-yard line, giving the ball back to the Huskies with two and a half minutes left in the half. Bloomsburg drove 55 yards in six plays, capped by a 12-yard scoring run by Quiteh to take a commanding 21-0 lead into intermission.
Gannon looked to change the momentum out of the locker room, forcing the Huskies into a three and out before finally tallying its first points of the game on a seven-play, 54-yard drive. Jones found a bit of running room, breaking off 16 yards for the touchdown and a 21-7 score.
Another big play from Quiteh set up some insurance points for the Huskies. Quiteh broke off a 61-yard run, his fourth rush of over 60 yards this year, to put the Huskies in position for a 40-yard field goal from Danny Fisher to stretch the edge back to three touchdowns.
Gannon appeared to have an answer, driving 35 yards in nine plays down to the Bloomsburg 1-yard line. Yet another defensive stand turned the Golden Knights away, though — Gannon attempted to pitch in space to Jones, but the running back was brought down three yards behind the line by linebacker Dylan Spangler to force the turnover on downs.
Bloomsburg put the game on ice with a back-breaking 96-yard drive to begin the fourth quarter. The Huskies drove the length of the field in 12 plays, reaching the end zone with a terrific, juggling 20-yard catch by tight end Aaron Allison.
A Liam Nadler quarterback sneak gave Gannon its second touchdown of the game, but the final scoring came from the visitors when Joe Parsnik ran off a 34-yard touchdown with less than three minutes on the clock.
The Huskies totaled 500 yards of total offense, paced by 351 yards on the ground. Through the air, Kelly completed 8 of 15 passes for 149 yards and two scores.
Defensively, Andrew Harris and Justin Shirk led the way with eight tackles apiece for Bloomsburg. Larry Webster racked up two sacks while Shawn Mitchell also tallied a forced fumble.
Bloomsburg returns home on Saturday, Oct. 12 when it hosts Millersville at 3:30 p.m. inside Danny Hale Field at Redman Stadium as part of Homecoming Weekend on campus.