The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

November 11, 2013

Todd Hummel's college sports column: Bloomsburg University football claims Eastern title


Daily Item

---- — So many things to get into this week with both football and basketball season intersecting this week.

Congratulations are in order for the Bloomsburg University football team, especially its defense, in bouncing back from its loss on national television to Shippensburg on Halloween night.

Bloomsburg went on the road and beat undefeated West Chester to claim the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference-Eastern Division title and earn a berth in the PSAC Championship game.

The Huskies (9-1) will host West champion Slippery Rock (9-1) at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday. It will be the first championship game at Redman Stadium since the Huskies beat IUP in 1985. PSAC didn't play a championship game from 1988 through 2007. The Huskies lost to Mercyhurst in the 2010 championship game, their only appearance since the return of the title game. In fact, the championship game in 2010 is the last time the Huskies lost to a Western Division squad.

Back to the defense after my history break, senior linebacker Justin Shirk made 16 tackles in Saturday's victory over the Rams. Bloomsburg managed to dominate the time of the possession against West Chester thanks to its defense holding the Rams to just 70 yards on the ground and 14 first downs. JP Patrick returned an interception for a touchdown for the Huskies.

Bloomsburg punter Will Wagner also played a huge role for Bloomsburg pinning West Chester on its own one-yard line on three consecutive punts, helping the Huskies win the field position battle.

Almost half of Wagner's punts (16-of-35) have been inside the 20-yard line this year, he's averaging 38.1 yards per punt with five over 50 yards.

n

A bright side from Penn State's loss on Saturday afternoon at the University of Minnesota was the continued strong play of Selinsgrove High graduate Ryan Keiser as the Nittany Lions' safety.

Keiser, who made the game-clinching interception in the end zone in last week's win against Illinois, had a career-high six tackles against the Golden Gophers, including five solo stops.

n

Both Bucknell basketball teams opened up the season this past Friday -- the women with a Friday morning contest with Pitt, while men travelled to face Stanford.

Both teams have to contend with graduation losses -- of course, the men more so than the women -- but two players that need to take even bigger roles on the teams played well in the openers.

Bucknell junior Audrey Dotson finished her sophomore year as the Bison's second-leading scorer and rebounder, but with the graduation of rebounding-ace Lindsey Hortabuck, Dotson will need to fill even more of a role on the glass.

In Bucknell's 66-51 loss to Pittsburgh at the Peterson Events Center in the first NCAA basketball game of 2013 (it tipped at 11 a.m.), Dotson recorded the fifth double-double of her career and her 14 rebounds paced a Bucknell attack on the glass that outrebounded their Big East foes: 59-38.

On the men's side, the Bison put up a valiant effort in their first game without Mike Muscala, Joe Willman and Bryson Johnson in four seasons, before falling to 72-68 at Maples Pavilion.

Bucknell coach Dave Paulsen didn't want to hear about 'moral' victories after Friday night's game, but point guard Stephen Kaspar, who moved into the starting lineup for the final seven games for last year's Patriot League champions, played well in his expanded offensive role this season.

The Bison knew Cameron Ayers, a four-year starter and preseason all-Patriot League, could provide some offense to help offset the loss of Muscala, Willman and Johnson, but Kaspar was one of the returnees needed to step forward.

Kaspar set career-highs with 12 points, nine assists and seven rebounds against the Cardinal on Friday night.

Ben Brackney, who became a key contributor late in the season after he returned from injury, made the most of his first start in a Bison uniform as well. He led Bucknell with 13 points and eight rebounds.