BLOOMSBURG — Even without a heroic presence such as William Wallace, the Fighting Scots of Edinboro managed to maintain momentum when it mattered and on a day when they were ripe for the taking managed to play with stout — if not brave —hearts by being able to control the ball with its running game and play opportunistic defense.
Meanwhile, Bloomsburg University was unable to do either Saturday on Danny Hale Field at Redman Stadium as the Huskies sputtered on offense and were shredded by tailback Walter Fletcher in a 21-16 non-conference loss to Edinboro that really was not as competitive as the final margin of victory might indicate. Fletcher rushed 33 times for 147 yards, including 16 carries for 107 yards and a touchdown in the first half.
Fletcher had rushed for just 102 yards and scored two touchdowns for the Fighting Scots (2-0) in their 69-0 opening victory at Lake Erie. Meanwhile, the Huskies (1-1) were looking to build on their performance in opening with a 30-16 victory over Merrimack, which they held to 112 yards rushing.
Edinboro dominated the Huskies in the first quarter to take a 14-7 lead that well could have as much as a three-touchdown lead. A 90-yard kickoff return by Ta’Nauz Gregory put the Scots in the lead for good after the Huskies tied the score 7-7 with a six-play, 60-yard drive midway through the first quarter.
Hakeem Sillman sparked the drive with four carries for 41 yards, and quarterback Erik Benjamin capped the drive with a 7-yard run to the 1 and a keeper for the touchdown. Benjamin also capped the scoring with a 1-yard keeper with 6:21 remaining in the game, but his inconsistency in the passing game was a major factor in Edinboro keeping the Huskies leashed.
Benjamin completed just 18-of-36 passes for 173 yards and three interceptions. For the season he has completed 27-of-56 passes for 318 yards, one touchdown and five interceptions.
Sillman led the Huskies with 20 carries for 104 yards, but was unable to get into the end zone. A 20-yard field goal by Jaco Sattimini as time expired at the half cut the Edinboro lead to 21-10.
Three times in the first quarter the Huskies defense avoided disaster by rising to the occasion, including a hold after a blocked punt on their first possession traveled just 17 yards to the 31. Edinboro went four-and-out, however, and Andrew Tomko was flagged for intentional grounding on a fourth-down incompletion, setting up Bloomsburg’s tying touchdown drive.
Tomko was a subpar 5-of-18 for 101 yards and two interceptions, but he was 3-of-3 on the game’s opening drive for 64 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown pass to James Clark. Tomko was injured late in the game, and while his replacement Jarrod Kellar was just 2-of-5 for 17 yards and an interception he moved the ball to take time off the clock when the Huskies mounted an aborted late rally.
“We simply have got to stop turning the ball over and stopping ourselves,” Bloomsburg coach Paul Darragh said. “Unfortunately we gave up that kickoff return, and that’s on me.
“We’ve simply got to become more consistent on offense and put more points on the board. We’ve got to find ways to get better, and it begins with not hurting ourselves with turnovers.”
Bloomsburg had its first turnover after Michael Allen, who led the Huskies with six receptions for 55 yards, lost the ball after making a catch. Edinboro was unable to capitalize, however, when a 27-yard field goal attempt by Jake Monroe was wide left.
Late in the first quarter middle linebacker Trey Hall made the first of his two interceptions, but the Huskies held to Scots to a three-and-out. On the second play of the second quarter Hall got his second interception and this time the Scots used a five-play, 30-yard drive to take a 21-7 lead on a 1-yard run by Fletcher.
An interception by cornerback Dexter Jordan stopped the Scots at the Bloomsburg 14, and the Huskies went on a 13-play, 86-yard drive for the only points of the second half. Their next passion ended, however, on an interception by Zuril Hedrick, and their final drive reached the Edinboro 36 on a 17-yard completion from Benjamin to Jay Popson before the game ended with a sack.
It left the Huskies thinking about what could have been and what has to be done.