On Halloween, the West Chester University Golden Rams came into their game with the Bloomsburg University Huskies playing for pride and the opportunity to knock the Huskies out of a playoff spot. Thanks to a huge defensive effort throughout the entire game, the Golden Rams (6-4, 5-2 PSAC East) did just that defeating Bloomsburg (8-2, 5-2 PSAC East) 30-14 for their third consecutive regular season victory over the Huskies.West Chester put together their best four quarters of football all season.
“The whole thing goes to us playing good football finally, especially in the first quarter,” head coach Bill Zwaan said. “No turnovers, limited penalties, we didn’t kill ourselves. That’s the kind of team we can be when we don’t do that and that’s probably the most frustrating part.”
“These guys are our rivals,” senior quarterback Joe Wright said. “This is the biggest game of the year for us. There was quiet confidence all week throughout practice. Everybody was having a good time but we got down to business and it showed. It shows what kind of team we really are. It’s a great win for us and for the program. It was a great win all around.”
“This is a great win,” senior linebacker Mike Dell said. “We struggled some a little bit earlier in the season and it’s awesome to beat a good team like Bloomsburg that, regardless of how good they are, it’s going to be a battle between West Chester and Bloomsburg. It’s awesome to get another win.”
Bloomsburg got on the board early when senior quarterback Dan Latorre rolled out left and hit junior wide receiver Cory Stiger for a 57-yard touchdown reception on the Huskies second play from scrimmage.
West Chester answered right back as they matriculated down the field against the “vaunted” Bloomsburg defense. Wright hit senior tight end Ryan Paulson for 27 yards to get into Huskies territory. Wright completed a pass to junior running back D’Andre Webb (11 yards) and three passes to junior wide receiver Dan DePalma (eight, six and 14 yards) before senior running back Lee Hopkins scored from one-yard out to even the score.
Bloomsburg came right back as they went down the field on the Golden Rams defense. Latorre found tight end Ben Weaber for 35 yards before hitting Stiger in the end zone from seven yards out for another touchdown.
On their next possession, West Chester moved the ball down the field on a defense that entered as one of the best in the country. Wright got it going with DePalma. Wright hit DePalma on three consecutive passes including a slant that DePalma caught, broke a Bloomsburg tackle and showed off his speed as he ran into the end zone for a 38-yard touchdown.
“Extremely satisfying,” Depalma said. “Regardless of whether it’s for a title or anything like that it’s a huge rivalry and we always go into practice with coach getting us fired up knowing we have to win this game. It’s big for the program, recruiting and everything.”
Late in the second quarter, following two defensive stops of Bloomsburg, the offense took to the field to take their first lead of the game. On a 3rd-and-16 from their own 45-yard line, Wright found Paulson for 19 yards for a first down. Three plays later, Wright found senior wide receiver Steve Miller for 24 yards to get inside the Huskies four-yard line. Webb finished off the drive with a four-yard touchdown.
The Golden Rams defense came into the game wanting to prove that their first ranked defense in the PSAC was no fluke, and they got that point across the final three quarters of the game.
On Bloomsburg’s next possession, senior cornerback Kevin Garland got his second interception of the season off Latorre late in the second quarter to put the Golden Rams offense back in business. They answered six plays later as Wright found DePalma for the second time to extend the West Chester lead to 28-14.
In the first half Wright had 236 yards passing and two touchdowns. DePalma had 111 yards on eight receptions and two touchdowns. Both teams struggled running the football as the Golden Rams held a slight advantage in yards, 33-31.
“Joey did a great job sitting in the pocket and delivering the pass on time,” DePalma said. “We worked hard in practice with running routes and timing because with that defense we knew we had to come out and execute.”
West Chester outgained the Huskies 269 to 166 yards in the first half.
“We came out firing,” Wright said. “We did what we had to do ion the first half and took the life out of them. It was a big win.”
The second half was a defensive struggle for both teams. The only scoring took place when Bloomsburg was called for a holding penalty in the end zone, resulting in a safety for the West Chester defense. The Golden Rams scored the final 23 points of the game to put Bloomsburg away.
Wright finished with a season-high 326 yards passing and two touchdowns. DePalma led the Golden Rams with with117 yards receiving on nine receptions with two touchdowns. Paulson added 104 yards on six receptions.
“We’ve been able to throw the ball against these guys in the past,” Zwaan said. “So we thought we could get that done. Joe was hitting the right guys.”
“I knew we could move the ball on them,” Wright said. “Our offensive line played great today, our receivers came up with some big catches and big plays. It was like pitch and catch with Dan, Steve and Ryan, letting those guys do what they do best and get in the end zone.”
Dell finished with a team-high nine tackles including a sack and a forced fumble. Scott Schiavo, Sam Scott, Matt Colyar and James Thorpe all had a tackle for a loss in the game. Corey Rhood also forced a fumble.
“Unbelievable,” Zwaan said about the defensive effort. “At halftime they knew they could shut [Bloomsburg] down in the second half. They did a great job.”
Latorre finished with a career-high 350 yards passing with two touchdowns and an interception. The West Chester defense held the Huskies to a season-low 47 yards rushing. Bloomsburg came into the game averaging 175.3 yards on the ground. Stiger had 122 yards and two touchdowns.
“When I see there run game and I look at the talent we have on our defense at linebacker I wasn’t worried about their run game,” Dell said. “I was worried about the big play and they went away from what they usually do in the first couple of quarters but I was never worried about the run game. Our defense is more solid and better than [Bloomsburg].”
This week West Chester ends the regular season with a home game against Mercyhurst College at 1 p.m. on Saturday. The game can be heard live and exclusively on 91.7 WCUR FM.
West Chester finishes the regular season with a tie for second place in the PSAC East with Bloomsburg . The Golden Rams scored on four of their six first-half possessions . West Chester was 7 of 10 on third downs in the first half . The Golden Rams held the ball for 36 and a half minutes in the game . West Chester outgained Bloomsburg 411 to 397
LJ Harrell is a fourth-year student majoring in Marketing. He can be reached at LH639694@wcupa.edu.