By Shawn Wood
For The Daily Item
BLOOMSBURG -- Five turnovers were too much for Bloomsburg to overcome Saturday in a stinging playoff loss to conference rival West Chester.
The Huskies fell behind by two touchdowns after a pair of early mistakes, and their second-half rally fell just short in a 40-38 loss in the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs at Danny Hale Field at Redman Stadium.
The Golden Rams (12-1), who lost a home game to Bloomsburg three weeks ago, got a pair of touchdown receptions from Tim Brown and four field goals from Shawn Leo. The Huskies (10-2) lost four fumbles and an interception.
"We didn't find a way to make one more play and we gave them too many big plays defensively ... and the turnovers were the difference in the game," Bloomsburg interim head coach Paul Darragh said.
West Chester took advantage of two first-quarter miscues -- a punt that hit a Husky and was recovered by the Golden Rams, and a fumble by Franklyn Quiteh (his first in 233 carries) -- to forge a 17-3 lead.
Quiteh ended his collegiate career with 7,523 rushing yards, second most in Division II history. He scored on runs of 24 and 1 yard, his 86th and 87th career rushing touchdowns, in the second quarter to tie the game at 17 with 1:44 left before halftime.
West Chester, aided by a roughing the passer call, drove 61 yards on seven plays following the Bloomsburg score to go up 20-17 at the half. Leo kicked the second of his four field goals, a 21-yard attempt with 17 seconds left in the half. He also connected from 28, 32 and 43 yards.
The Huskies received the ball to start the third quarter but managed six yards on three plays and were forced to punt from their own 41.
"We talk about the first five minutes of the third quarter being big and that's why we love to defer and take the ball in the second half," Darragh said. "We have been pretty efficient in having some positive plays in the beginning of the third quarter."
Bloomsburg was 0-for-2 on third-down conversions in the first quarter, 0-for-4 in third quarter and 6-for-15 overall.
"The third down again was critical, but when it comes down to a team like that, you have to be able to make more plays than they do and we didn't do that," Darragh added. "I know there was disappointment at times, but our guys never gave up and they gave us a chance to win the game."
Bloomsburg, which had come back from a 35-0 deficit in 2011 against West Chester, rallied to get to within six points at 37-31 when Connor Gades hauled in a 72-yard touchdown pass from Tim Kelly with 10:13 left in the game.
Leo made his 43-yard field goal with 7:21 left to push the lead to 40-31 before Bloomsburg answered with a 6-yard scoring pass from Tim Kelly to Tony Pererin
The ensuing onside kick was nearly recovered by Bloomsburg, but West Chester wrestled it away on the bottom of the pile. Also, Bloomsburg was penalized for being offside on the kick.
Quiteh rushed for more than 200 yards for the 13th time in his career, finishing with 208 on 26 carries. He had 165 yards in the first half alone.
"This team is very resilient and we've faced adversity almost every year I have been here. To be down by 17, that doesn't faze us," Quiteh said. "We're going to still stay the course and execute our plays and put points on the board.
"If I went back four years, I would pick this jersey right back up," he added. "I love Bloomsburg and the things we accomplished this year was great and being PSAC champion, they can't take that away from us."
Franklyn tore off a 46-yard run in the first quarter when West Chester's Brandon Pope ran him down and punched out the ball for a turnover.
"I was in the middle of the field and I was trying to make a play and the ball came away from me and the defensive player made a great play. It was on me; it was all my fault," Quiteh said.
West Chester quarterback Sean McCartney, who threw for 305 yards in the teams' previous meeting, passed for 348 yesterday. His third touchdown pass gave the Golden Rams a 34-17 lead late in the third quarter.
"I thought that we had the ability (to come back) if we had more time, and you do take your chances with the onside kick," Darragh said. "To their credit, they made one more play than we did and their field goal kicker hit a couple when I thought we had a chance to keep points of the board."
On Bloomsburg's first offensive snap, Quiteh raced off left tackle for a 51-yard gain that made him the first Division II player to rush for 2,000 or more yards in three seasons.