6 turnovers, trickery not enough, Scots lose West opener at Cal

Category:  Sports
Wednesday, September 26th, 2018 at 6:13 PM

The Fighting Scots dropped their PSAC West opener Saturday at California University of Pennsylvania after a back-and-forth battle that saw Edinboro briefly taking the lead in the fourth quarter.

Edinboro trailed by no more than two scores throughout the game, rallying from behind to take that brief lead in the final frame. The Vulcans would boost themselves to a 40-35 lead, though, and would then need two kneel downs to finish off the victory. 

The loss was Edinboro’s first of the season, bringing their record to 3-1 overall and 0-1 in the PSAC West.

Head Football Coach Wayne Bradford praised the team for not giving up despite trailing for most of the game.

“We gave [a] great effort. We gave ourselves a chance to win,” he said. “You know, in the second half we were down by two touchdowns, we never quit, played right through the end.”

The Fighting Scots will next take on Gannon Saturday at 2 p.m. for their homecoming game. The Golden Knights are 0-4 to start the season after losing their first PSAC West game Saturday against Clarion.

Cornerback Zuril Hendrick said he is eager to face off against the team that defeated them 47-25 last season.

“I’m definitely looking forward to that game. After the tough loss we took last year to them, we want to get our revenge I guess, so that’s definitely a big game for us in front of our fans,” he said.

Return of the “trickeration”

For the second week in a row, the Fighting Scots debuted a trick play in the first half that led to quarterback Andrew Tomko finding his way into the end zone.

Early in the second quarter, Edinboro found themselves on fourth-and-5, just outside of field goal territory. Lined up in field goal formation, Tomko — Edinboro’s usual holder — handled the snap and immediately took off toward the sideline, catching California’s defense off-guard and cruising in for a 21-yard rushing touchdown. 

The touchdown was just his second rushing touchdown of the year and fourth of his career. He also has seven passing touchdowns and one receiving touchdown this season after a trick play against East Stroudsburg.

‘Boro forces six turnovers

The Fighting Scots entered the game leading Division II in turnovers gained and continued that dominance at California. They forced two fumbles and intercepted four passes, including a 54-yard return by Zuril Hendrick after a pick.

Hendrick noted the participation from the newer members of the defense as well as the veterans.

“I saw a lot of young guys stepping up, making plays for us,” Hendrick said. “[It was] just us on the defense, not backing down, and taking any challenge we can and trying to make the best out of it.”

Hendrick increased his season total to four interceptions, putting him on pace to at least match his Division II-leading nine interceptions last season. He also blocked a punt in the third quarter that placed Edinboro on Cal’s 26-yard line to start their drive. The Scots would score on their fake field goal trick play to give them a short-lived 14-7 lead.

Linebacker Trey Hall, who intercepted just one pass last season, increased his season total to three interceptions after picking off a tipped pass in the third quarter. True freshman cornerback Branson Smith earned his first career interception in the final minutes of the second quarter.

Bradford said the turnovers have been the result of an increased focus from the coaching staff.

“They’ve got great pride and play with great effort, and they do what they need to and we take great pride,” he said. “We want to lead the country in takeaways. And we want to win games.”

Streaks and records

Ta’Nauz Gregory’s first reception of the day was a wide-open, 5-yard pass in the corner of the endzone to tie the game up at 7 in the first quarter. His second helped him climb Edinboro’s career receptions rankings.

With his 136th reception, Gregory moved into sole possession of sixth place all-time in receptions at Edinboro. His 90 yards receiving also moved him into eight on Edinboro’s career receiving yards ranking with 1,945. He ranks second in career kickoff return yards and is currently tied for first in career kickoff returns for touchdowns.

His teammate James Clark is second in career receptions with 183 after Saturday’s game. He needs just 12 more to break the record. He is second in career receiving yards as well.

Hendrick currently holds the third spot in career interceptions with 18 but would tie for second with just one more and would tie for first if he reaches 20.

Edinboro began the season with a three-game win streak, including their first two games on the road and their home opener. They also began the 2016 season with a 3-0 start before falling to Indiana University of Pennsylvania in the fourth week.

Walter Fletcher entered the game having rushed for at least 100 yards in 4 consecutive games dating back to last season but saw that streak end with just 66 net yards against the Vulcans.

Freshman kicker Jake Monroe extended his streak of successful PAT kicks to 15 since missing his 10th attempt in his first college game at Lake Erie. He is now 24-for-25 for the season.

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

Tags: sports, football

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