BLOOMSBURG — The Bloomsburg Huskies have a simple formula for success.
After Virginia State became the first team this season to score on its opening drive against Bloomsburg, the Huskies didn’t deviate from their plan.
"Even after they scored, we decided to just stick with what we do best," said Bloomsburg head coach Paul Darragh. "And what we do best is run the ball and play defense."
The Huskies rattled off 28 consecutive points to defeat Virginia State in an NCAA Division II second-round playoff game, 35-14, Saturday at Redman Stadium.
Bloomsburg (11-1), which rushed for 230 yards and had 405 yards of total offense, advances to the quarterfinals next week at Concord (W.Va.), which defeated West Chester 51-36.
"We knew coming in they had not given up a lot of yards on the ground," said Huskies running back Eddie Mateo. "We knew we could gash them. The line did a great job of blocking."
Mateo put the Huskies on the board right away as he rushed seven times on a nine-play dive and went the final 21 yards to make it 7-0.
"The opening drive was key for us," said Bloom quarterback Tim Kelly. "It set the tone."
The Trojans (10-3) answered when Tarian Ayres found Jaiv Smallwood open along the sideline for a 50-yard touchdown pass to tie it at 7.
"They got the matchup they wanted on that play," said Darragh. "After that play we didn’t panic. We just executed and stayed with the plan."
If the Huskies had reason to panic it would have been at the end of the first half when they had a field goal blocked and saw it returned to the BU 19. But on the next play, Ayres was intercepted by Donovan Morris.
"We got that big play and when something like that happens you need to turn around and score," said Trojans head coach Latrell Scott. "Bloomsburg was the best team we played all year."
From that point on Kelly and the BU defense took over.
Kelly connected with D.J. McFadden on a 58-yard scoring strike for the lead, and Kelly later scored on a 6-yard bootleg to make it 21-7 at halftime.
Virginia State got the second half kickoff but Bloomsburg’s pressure forced a fumble which led to Kelly’s 5-yard TD run for a 28-7 lead.
Kelly scored one more time on the ground when he pushed in from 1-yard to make it 35-7.
"They did a great job of moving Kelly around and getting him in the position to make big plays," said Scott.
Kelly rushed for three scores and threw for another on 12-of-20 passing.
"I don’t think I ever ran for three touchdowns — even in high school," he said.
Ayres was also running. Instead of scoring touchdowns, he was running for his life. Bloomsburg sacked the Trojan quarterback eight times (Virginia State had allowed just one sack in its previous eight games), forced two turnovers and was a constant presence in the backfield.
"We were hungry," said Bloomsburg linebacker Justin Shirk, who was credited with 12 tackles, including 1.5 sacks. "After that first drive we just went after them. We knew what we had to do and that was get to the quarterback."
Mateo finished with 129 yards on the ground, while the Trojans ran for just 113 yards as a team.
"We didn’t play the way we wanted to," said Scott, "and Bloomsburg had a lot to do with it."
Virginia State had just 267 yards of total offense — 138 of that came on the two scoring drives.
"I’m very proud of the way we played," said Darragh. "After losing the (PSAC championship) game to Slippery Rock two weeks ago it was good to get back on the field.
"We challenged the offensive and defensive lines to win the trenches and they did just that."
The win marked the first playoff victory for the Huskies since 2010.
"It was great for the seniors to get their first playoff win," said Darragh.