With Edinboro’s offense suddenly becoming one dimensional, the defense and special teams stepped up to lead the Fighting Scots to a big road win at Bloomsburg in a PSAC crossover contest. The 21-16 victory boosted Edinboro to 2-0 after starting the season with back-to-back road wins. The defense forced four turnovers and came up with a couple late sacks, and despite being on the field for 36 minutes, held the Huskies to 327 total yards. Ta’Nauz Gregory provided the Fighting Scots with another electrifying play as he returned a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Edinboro took the opening kickoff and drove 63 yards onsix plays, with Andrew Tomko completed three passes to James Clark. The final one covered 22 yards to account for the first score of the game at 13:01. Less than two minutes into the game, the Fighting Scots led 7-0 following Jake Monroe’s PAT.
Bloomsburg would knot the score at 7-7 after Edinboro failed to take advantage of a partially blocked punt. The Huskies went 60 yards on six plays, with Hakeem Sillman picking up 39 yards on four carries. Erik Bejamin scored from a yard out to tie the game at 7-7 with 7:00 minutes left in the opening quarter.
The tie was short-lived as Ta’nauz Gregory took the ensuing kickoff at the 10 and burst down the right side 90 yards for his xxxx career kickoff return for a touchdown. That made it 14-7 with 6:42 left.
The second of two first-half Trey Hall interceptions set up Edinboro’s third score of the half. Ryan Bischoff tipped Benjamin’s screen pass and Hall ended up with the ball at the BU30. A pass interference call on the Huskies gave Edinboro a first down at the 10. On 3rd-and-gaol, Fletcher ran nine yards to the one. The redshirt junior scored from a yard out on the next play, bouncing off right tackle into the end zone. Edinboro led 21-7 with 12:46 left in the half.
Bloomsburg took advantage of a short punt late in the first half to cut the deficit to 21-10 on a 28-yard field goal by Jaco Sattamini as time expired. Starting at the EU35, the Huskies moved to the 10. A pair of penalties pushed them back to the 26, but a 15-yard pass completion moved the ball to the 11 with three seconds left. That pass went to Marshall Rizzuto, a former Fighting Scot and the brother of Edinboro student assistant coach Mike Rizzuto.
There was just one score over the final 30 minutes. A bad punt snap gave Edinboro the ball deep in Bloomsburg territory, but a Jarrod Kellar interception gave the Huskies the ball at their own 13. Bloomsburg would proceed to drive 87 yards on 12 plays, covering almost four-and-a-half minutes. Benjamin scored his second touchdown of the game on a one-yard plunge with 6:21 remaining. The Huskies went for two, but Benjamin’s pass was incomplete.
Bloomsburg’s final two possessions were stunted by the defense. Zuril Hendrick intercepted a Benjamin pass at the EU 15. The Huskies would get the ball back with 47 seconds to play at their own 15. Benjamin would complete four passes as Bloomsburg had one last gasp with two seconds left at the EU36. Ryan Bischoff sacked Benjamin for a 14-yard loss on the final play.
This was a game of missed opportunities for the Fighting Scots. In the first quarter alone, after driving for a touchdown on the opening drive, Branson Smith blocked a punt that went just 17 yards. Edinboro took over at the BU31, but the drive stalled at the 25. Maurice Sims forced a fumble on Bloomsburg’s next possession, recovered by David Ballew III. The Fighting Scots took over at the BU40 but would go on to miss a 27-yard field goal. Bloomsburg’s next possession, still in the first quarter, resulted in the first of two Trey Hall interceptions. Taking over at the BU46, the drive ended with a three-and-out.
Early in the second quarter a Walter Fletcher 27-yard run gave the Scots a first down at the BU37. On the next play, Andrew Tomko was intercepted in the end zone. The next series, also in Bloomsburg territory, also ended with an interception.
In the third quarter, Tomko’s 26-yard pass to A.J. Turner gave the Fighting Scots a first down in Bloomsburg territory, but the drive ended at the BU38.
Finally, a bad snap on a punt gave Edinboro the ball at the Bloomsburg 25 early in the fourth quarter. After one first down, on a play which Tomko got hurt, the drive ended with a Jarrod Kellar interception at the BU 13.
This was the first meeting between the two teams 2013, and the Huskies had won the last two meetings and four of the last five. Edinboro now holds a 7-4 lead in the all-time series.
Levi Becker had a couple short punts in the rainy conditions, but the redshirt freshman came up big when it mattered most. He boomed a 48-yard punt to pin the Huskies at their own 15 to start the last drive.
BY THE NUMBERS
Edinboro was held to 258 total yards, with 140 yards rushing and 118 yards passing on 7-of-23 attempts. The Fighting Scots turned the ball over three times, all on interceptions. Bloomsburg wasn’t much better, ending the day with 327 yards despite running 22 more plays than Edinboro (86 to 64). The Edinboro defense forced four turnovers (3 INTs, 1 fumble), partially blocked a punt, and had 2 sacks. The Fighting Scots limited a Huskies’ offense known for its ground game to 154 yards rushing on 50 carries, a 3.1 yard average. Bloomsburg’s Erik Benjamin completed 18-of-36 passes for 173 yards. Hakeem Sillman had 104 yards rushing for the Huskies on 20 carries.
Walter Fletcher posted his 12th career 100-yard game and second of 2018, finishing with 147 yards on 33 carries with a touchdown. He had 107 yards at the half.
Andrew Tomko was hot to start the game, completing his first three pass attempts, all to James Clark, for 64 yards, the final 22 accounting for a touchdown. The redshirt sophomore struggled after that, at one point misfiring on 10 straight passes and finishing the day at 5-of-18 for 101 yards with 2 INTs. Tomko would be knocked out of the game early in the fourth quarter. Backup Jarrod Kellar came in and completed 2-of-5 passes for 17 yards with an interception, but he threw a key 7-yard completion to Ta’Nauz Gregory late in the game for a first down.
Ta’nauz Gregory returned a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown, marking the third kickoff return for a score in his career. He returned two for six points as a freshman in 2016.
The defense had some impressive performances. Senior linebacker Trey Hall had a team-high 10 tackles, 2 for losses, with a pair of interceptions. He had one previous career interception. Brandon Anderson added 9 tackles, with Zuril Hendrick showing 8 tackles and an interception. Derek Dorr finished with 2.5 tackles for losses.
THE RECORD BOOK
Walter Fletcher moved into sixth place in career rushing with 2,538 yards, moving past Ulysee Davis. Fletcher had his 12th career 100-yard game with 147 yards on a career-high 33 carries. He moved into a tie for sixth place in career rushing touchdowns with 27.
After leading Division II in interceptions with 9 last year, Zuril hendrick came up with his 15th career interception. That moves the senior cornerback into a tie for fourth place.
James Clark moved closer to setting the career receptions record after catching 3 passes for 64 yards. He now has 175, 20 shy of breaking Darren Massey’s record.
Ta’Nauz Gregory returned a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown. It is his third career kickoff return for a score, which tied the school record. The junior wide receiver has now moved into second place in career kickoff return yards with 1,405.
NEXT WEEK’S GAME
After back-to-back games on the road, Edinboro plays for the first time in 2018 at Sox Harrison Stadium. The Fighting Scots will host East Stroudsburg in another PSAC crossover contest on Saturday, September 15, with kickoff set for 12 noon.
Edinboro has not played East Stroudsburg since 2015, when the Warriors claimed a 56-12 decision at Eiler-Martin Stadium. ESU has won the last three meetings between the two schools and holds a 13-6 lead in the all-time series.
The Warriors are in their 45th season under head coach Denny Douds, who entered 2018 leading NCAA active coaches in career wins (263) and ranks 16th in NCAA history. He is also the active leader in games coached (464).
Next Saturday is the Hall of Fame Game. Ten individuals will be inducted into the Edinboro Athletic Hall of Fame, including former football standouts Chris Kaczor and Bryan Lambert. They will serve as honorary captains at Saturday’s game.