Kickoff return touchdown boosts Scots to 21-16 win

Category:  Sports
Wednesday, September 12th, 2018 at 5:19 PM

The Edinboro Fighting Scots football team will head into their home opener undefeated after winning the second game of the season, topping Bloomsburg University, 21-16, on Saturday.

“Winning on the road in the PSAC against a perennial contender is a great feeling,” Head Coach Wayne Bradford said after the game.

Statistically, the Huskies led in most offensive categories and seemed to dominate control of the ball, but Edinboro’s offense was more efficient. The Fighting Scots struck for an early 7-0 lead in the first quarter, but Bloomsburg tied it up soon after. On the ensuing kickoff, Ta’Nauz Gregory raced to a 90-yard touchdown return, putting Edinboro ahead once more.

Gregory credited his success this season — both on special teams and as a wide receiver — to his teammates executing their blocks and setting him up for big plays. He said he told his blockers to, “‘just hold your blocks for a few seconds and I’ll take care of the rest.’” For his efforts, Gregory was named the PSAC West special teams athlete of the week.

Edinboro’s defense forced a fumble and two interceptions on Bloomsburg’s next three drives, with one turnover setting up the offense at the Huskies’ 30-yard line. Walter Fletcher finished off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run to put the Scots up 21-7.

Unsuccessful drives from both teams ended with a Huskies field goal as the half ended, cutting Edinboro’s lead to 21-10.

Neither team was able to score until the fourth quarter when Bloomsburg completed an 87-yard drive, but the Huskies couldn’t convert the two-point conversion. After giving up an interception on their next drive, Bloomsburg forced Edinboro to punt with 47 seconds left in the game.

Needing a touchdown to take the lead, the Huskies reached midfield before Edinboro sacked quarterback Erik Benjamin on a “Hail Mary” final play of the game to win 21-16.

Bradford praised Edinboro’s defense for preventing Bloomsburg’s notoriously tough running game from running up the score.

“We’re more built to defend the spread and what we see in our league, so to be able to line up against two tight ends and fullbacks and hold them to 16 points, I think [it] is tremendous,” he explained.

With the win, Edinboro is one of just two PSAC West teams (Indiana University of Pennsylvania) that started 2-0 overall this season. The Fighting Scots will host East Stroudsburg, who started the season with a loss before defeating Seton Hill last week, for their home opener Saturday at noon.

Defense cuts down Huskies

If football games were decided purely on total offense production, Bloomsburg would be 2-0 to start the season. Key turnovers from the Fighting Scots prevented Bloomsburg from converting their excess yards into more points.

Edinboro forced two fumbles — one recovered by the Scots while the other resulted in a turnover on downs — and picked off three passes in the effort.

Trey Hall was responsible for the first two Edinboro interceptions. The first one came late in the first quarter after he found himself in between an underthrown pass and its intended receiver. Early in the second quarter, he picked off a screen pass that was tipped at the line.

Hall said the defense worked well together in the game, allowing individual players to focus on their assignments, rather than

trying to make big plays.

“I mean, it just allows all of us to just play freely in our own positions,” he said. “It’s awesome when we all connect like a unit.”

Defensive Coordinator Colin Neely credited the defense’s teamwork for their ability to stop potentially dangerous Bloomsburg drives.

“If everybody’s doing their job, then you’re naturally going to make plays, right, and Trey Hall lucks into a couple interceptions...actually one was good, one was a tip,” he said.

Edinboro’s third interception was Zuril Hendrick’s first of the season. Hendrick, who led Division II in interceptions last year with nine, delivered on a deep pass attempt from Benjamin that landed in Hendrick’s diving arms on Edinboro’s own 15-yard line.

“Hendrick has been itching for a pick,” Neely added. “He started off the season with three last year. He wasn’t getting much action [in] game one or this game. They tried him late in the game and he made them pay for it.”

Huskies outpace Scots on the ground and in the air

While the defense was able to keep Bloomsburg off the scoreboard, the Huskies still put up big rushing and passing totals.

Edinboro rushed for 140 net yards, but the Huskies’ run-heavy offense managed 154. To Edinboro’s credit though, Bloomsburg rushed for 261 yards the week before.

Neely said he expected Bloomsburg to rush for a high total, but he was glad to see Edinboro make stops in important situations.

“They’ve got two good backs, so they’re going to get some runs,” he said. “I thought we stayed in it, stayed in it, kept battling through adversity, and we ended up victorious.”

Edinboro’s passing game was also lackluster. Between Andrew Tomko and Jarrod Keller, who replaced Tomko after an injury in the fourth quarter, Edinboro completed just seven passes on 23 attempts, good for 118 yards with three interceptions and one touchdown. Their offensive line also gave up their first sack of the season.

Offensive Line Coordinator Jack Corey praised Bloomsburg’s defense for overpowering Edinboro’s experienced O-line.

“On that play, I think the defense just did a really good job,” he said. “Obviously it goes on the stat sheet and we don’t want to see that, but I think in the end, we probably did pretty good on that play and the defense just won that one.”

Bloomsburg’s defense would add another sack before the clock would expire.

Christopher Rosato Jr. can be reached at sports.spectator@gmail.com

Tags: sports, football

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