By Todd Hummel
For The Daily Item
BLOOMSBURG -- Shippensburg quarterback Zach Zulli probably clinched the 2012 Harlon Hill Trophy -- the Division II Heisman -- on the strength of his performances against Bloomsburg with 975 yards and 10 touchdowns in two victories over the Huskies.
One year later, with Bloomsburg geared for revenge in a nationally-televised Thursday night game at Danny Hale Field at Robert Redman Stadium, the Huskies defense once again had no answer for the Red Raiders' senior signal caller.
Zulli threw for 466 yards and five touchdowns, while the Shippensburg defense limited Bloomsburg's own Harlon Hill candidate Franklyn Quiteh under 100 rushing yards, in a 34-18 Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference-Eastern Division win over the Huskies.
For the third consecutive season, Bloomsburg saw a season-opening eight-game win streak fall by the wayside as the Huskies, who entered the game No. 5 in the nation, fell to 8-1 overall, 5-1 PSAC-East. Shippensburg improved to 6-3, 5-1.
The Shippensburg victory put West Chester (5-0 PSAC-East) alone at the top, but the Huskies travel to the Golden Rams next Saturday. A Bloomsburg win over West Chester would still give them the Eastern Division championship.
Bloomsburg trailed 13-0 at halftime, but got a 43-yard kickoff return from Larry Elliot Jr. to open the second half. That set up a 10-play, 47-yard drive and a 28-yard field goal to cut the Shippensburg lead to 13-3.
But Zulli and the Red Raiders' offense had a quick answer. A 41-yard pass to Sheldon Mayer set up Zulli's 27-yard TD pass to Trevor Harman, capping a 68-yard drive that took just 28 seconds and gave the Red Raiders a 20-3 lead.
Elliot set up another Bloomsburg score with an 86-yard return to the 14, leading to the Huskies' first touchdown of the game. Quiteh tied the PSAC-record for touchdowns with the 85th of his career, matching former Bloomsburg great Jamar Brittingham.
With the Raiders' lead cut to 20-10, Mayer (six catches, 244 yards, two touchdowns) caught a 75-yard TD pass. Zulli avoided a sack, scrambled away from pressure and found Mayer alone behind the defense.
Bloomsburg turned over the ball on its next play from scrimmage, setting up a nine-play, 75-yard drive, capped by Zulli's 38-yard TD pass to Harman (12 catches, 134 yards, 2 scores) with 3:21 left in the third quarter to make it 34-10.
Bloomsburg got a touchdown run from Tim Kelly and a two-point conversion run from Quiteh to trim the lead to 34-18. But, after a forcing the first Shippensburg punt, Bloomsburg turned over the ball on downs.
Quiteh, the nation's leading rusher, left the game with an apparent shoulder injury late in the fourth quarter.
Shippensburg dominated the opening half against the Huskies. The Red Raiders ran 33 plays in the first quarter to just three by the Huskies, but an interception by Jonathan Patrick and a stop on a fourth-and-goal on the 2 kept the game scoreless.
Zulli hit Harman with a 31-yard TD pass with 8:54 left in the first half to cap a seven-play 55-yard drive. Shippensburg missed the extra point. Then with 2:31 left in the second quarter, Mayer got behind the Bloomsburg defense with a double move, catching an 84-yard TD pass from Zuli for the 13-0 lead the Raiders took to halftime.