The Golden Rams come up just short on the road against perennial PSAC East contender Bloomsburg, losing 24-23 Saturday afternoon.
With their playoff hopes on the line Saturday, West Chester (6-4) traveled to No. 13 ranked Bloomsburg (9-1) and gave the Huskies everything that they could handle. Bloomsburg never trailed in the game, but West Chester never let them get too far out in front. Twice they managed to stretch the lead to 11 but the Rams answered right back to pull back to within one possession.
The Huskies got things started off when running back Dai’Shon Munger broke off a 30 yard run to cap off Bloomsburg’s first drive of the game and put them in front 7-0. On West Chester’s first drive, they went 51 yards in 11 plays as they methodically worked their way down the field, coming away with a Shawn Leo 35 yard field goal to make it 7-3. With the field goal, it was Leo’s 31st career field goal passing former kicker John Marotta for the school record.
The No. 13 team in the country answered right back with seven more, this time they struck again using a big run by Franklyn Quiteh who ran for 31 yards to make the score 14-3 with three minutes remaining in the opening quarter. In the second quarter, the teams continued to exchange scores, as running back Rondell White pulled in a six yard pass from Mike Mattei to pull the Rams within four, 14-10. Bloomsburg came back with under six minutes to go in the half with a 33 yard field goal to push the lead back to seven. The Golden Rams continued having success moving the ball on the Huskies defense, this time going 78 yards over 11 plays and kicking another Leo field goal, this time from 23 yards out as time expired to go into the locker rooms down 17-13.
In the second half, Bloomsburg struck first as they scored on a 28 yard pass with just under nine minutes to go in the third quarter. With the score 24-13, the Golden Rams defense stiffened up as they didn’t allow another point during the last 23 minutes of the game, but an 11-point deficit would prove difficult to overcome during that time.
On West Chester’s very next drive they took it 35 yards, but once again they could not find the endzone as they settled for Leo’s third field goal of the game, this time from 30 yards. Following a dismal punt of only 13 yards by Bloomsburg, the Rams didn’t waste any time taking advantage of their great field position, starting from the Bloomsburg 41-yard line. Two plays later White was standing in the endzone after taking the hand-off and going 41 yards for the score. With two and half minutes remaining in the third quarter, Coach Bill Zwaan elected to kick the extra point and pull the Rams within one, 24-23 instead of going for the tie. With still over a quarter to play, neither team thought that kick would be the last points scored in the game.
In the fourth quarter, the Golden Rams squandered a few opportunities losing two fumbles, including one at the Bloomsburg 12-yard line. The inability to capitalize on red-zone opportunities with six points really hurt the Golden Rams as their upset bid fell short 24-23.
White had another spectacular game on the ground as he carried the ball 30 times for 211 yards and a touchdown. White needs 218 yards rushing next week versus Clarion to tie Mike Eckmeyer for the single-season school record of 1,539 yards. White currently is ranked seventh nationally in all-purpose yards, averaging about 183 yards per game. Despite Bloomsburg rushing the ball 18 more times than West Chester, they only gained 31 more yards on the ground.
Mattei had himself another solid day posting very respectable numbers while taking care of the ball. He completed 19 of his 32 passes for 197 yards and a touchdown. White led the receiving corps as well piling up 94 yards on nine catches and another touchdown.
Captain Carl Barnes led the Golden Rams on the defensive side of the ball, making 11 totals tackles, 5 solo tackles and 6 assisted tackles. Linebacker Ronell Williams, who leads the PSAC in total tackles and is sixth nationally, was second on the team in tackles, recording nine total tackles. Three of those tackles were solo tackles with six being assisted tackles. He also had one tackle for a loss.
The Golden Rams did convert on four of their five red-zone trips but three of those resulted in field goals rather than touchdowns. West Chester did out-gain the Huskies 422-340 but with Blommsburg’s offense centered around the running game, they held the advantage in time of possession by over four minutes.
Next weekend, West Chester will conclude their 2012 campaign by traveling to PSAC West foe, Clarion (4-6). The Golden Eagles are coming off two blow-out losses to IUP 45-0 and to Edinboro 48-13. With last week’s victory over lowly Cheyney, the Golden Rams have clinched a winning season, but really needed to beat Bloomsburg as well as Clarion next week in order to have any hopes of making the playoffs this season. Kickoff will be at 1 p.m.
Riley Wallace is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies with a journalism minor. He can be reached at RW718681@wcupa.edu.