WCU outslugs Bloomsburg
Other than a few football purists in attendance, Saturday’s penalty-filled gridiron clash was kind of difficult to watch. But for West Chester head coach Bill Zwaan, his team’s 27-7 defensive gem against Bloomsburg was an absolute thing of beauty.
“It was one of the best defensive games that we’ve ever played in my tenure,” said Zwaan, who is in his 14th-year at the helm. “We’ve had a couple against Millersville and Cheyney, but when you do it against Bloomsburg, that takes it to a whole other level.”
To say that the PSAC East grudge match was a defensive struggle would be an understatement. But time and time again, the Golden Rams stymied the Huskies offense, putting a damper on Homecoming festivities at Redmen Stadium.
“It was unbelievable,” Zwaan said. “This is a tough place to play and our guys put forth a fantas-
tic effort defensively. We are a little disappointed we didn’t get the shutout, but it doesn’t take away from what a great effort it was.”
Now boasting a modest two-game winning streak, WCU improves to 4-3 overall and remains in contention in the division race at 3-1. Bloomsburg falls to 2-2 (4-3 overall) and is almost certainly eliminated.
“Up here at Bloomsburg, everything is tough,” said WCU defensive coordinator Mike Furlong. “For us, we haven’t had a lot of clean efforts this season. We’ve been fighting everything all year, so it was great to have a game where we did almost everything right.”
It was very nearly West Chester’s first shutout victory in the series in 34 years, but the Huskies finally scored with 16 seconds remaining against the Rams’ second stringers. In all, the Huskies managed only 246 yards of total offense, and just 100 yards on the ground.
“We knew if we could stop their run and make them pass, it would be to our advantage, and that’s what we did,” explained defensive tackle Josh Ganzelli. “We were firing off the ball, we were aggressive and we tried to hit them before they hit us.”
Offensively, the Rams experienced some predictable woes against a solid BU defense, but the more important number for WCU was zero – as in zero turnovers. Quarterback Pat Moriarty made his third start of the season (Andrew Derr is out with an injured hand), and was efficient, if not spectacular.
“We just didn’t want to put our defense into bad spots, and we knew eventually things would start to open up for us, and it did,” Zwaan pointed out. “When we don’t have turnovers, we are a really good football team.”
The Rams led 14-0 at the half, limited the Huskies to 54 yards of offense and had knocked Bloomsburg quarterback, Chris Palubinsky, out of the game. He failed to complete a pass in nine tries before giving way to Duffy Gilhool.
“We played awesome,” junior linebacker Kevin Duggan said of the defense.
“I thought our secondary played well and that allowed us to put an extra guy in there on the run,” Zwaan added. “We got off blocks, fought to the football and did all of the things you need to do to stop a running team like Bloomsburg.”
Clinging to a two TD lead, the Rams closed it out with two fourth quarter scores. Running back Jerel Elder notched his second of two rushing touchdowns on the day, and backup quarterback Paul Dooley scored on a 3-yard keeper, which was set up by a 53-yard run by teammate Eerin Young.
“We are starting to form into the team we thought we’d be at the beginning of the season,” Duggan said.
A penalty did negate a third quarter score by Elder, but the only other big second half negative came when Golhool found Chad Hoffman for a 16-yard strike in the final minute to end the shutout.
“Our whole sideline wanted that shutout really bad,” Ganzelli said.
“When it first happened, I was upset, but we have to play those (substitutes), they are practicing hard and we might need them,” Furlong added. “Those eight snaps at the end of the game will help us get those kids a little better.”
The Rams managed just a single first down in the opening quarter, but did put together a pair of scoring drives in the second, including an epic 11-play, 94yard march that opened the scoring. A 34-yard pass from Moriarty to freshman tight end Cody Boozel set up the score, a 9-yard run by Elder.
“That drive was huge and we needed it,” Zwaan said.
On its next possession, a 46-yard flea-flicker moved WCU into the red zone, and the Rams made it 14-0 on a perfectly executed play-action pass from Moriarty to wideout Marcus Sydnor.
West Chester rolled up 433 yards of total offense, and had a 136-yard edge on the ground, with Elder and Young combining for 183 yards on 29 carries. For the game, Moriarty was 11 of 18 for 197 yards, and his favorite target was wideout Tyler Karpinski, who hauled in four passes for 105 yards.
But the real star was the entire WCU defense. Nobody had more than seven tackles, but defensive ends Ch’Aim (sack, fumble recovery) and John Dubyk (six tackles, sack) were bigplay standouts.
“We hadn’t been able to out together two full halves, and (Saturday) we finally did it,” Smith said.
“The thing about our defense is we have great depth across the board. So even if we are missing some great players, we now have that edge to go as hard as we can every play.”
NOTES: In addition to Derr, several other starters did not dress for the game, including wideout Shannon Mayer (hamstring), linebacker Ralph Reeves (neck) and defensive lineman George Shipp (foot) … It was a penalty-filled clash, with both WCU and BU getting flagged a dozen times each. “If we can cut down on the penalties, we will be even better,” Zwaan said.