BLOOMSBURG, Pa. – Tim Brown caught five passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns while Rondell White rushed for over 100 yards to lead visiting West Chester to a 40-38 victory against Bloomsburg in the second round of the NCAA Division II Playoffs.
West Chester (12-1) advances to play top-seeded Shepherd (11-0) in the quarterfinals next Saturday in Shepherdstown, W.Va., at Noon.
The Huskies (10-2) scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, during a valiant comeback bid. However, a pair of field goals by the Golden Rams was enough to keep the second-seeded hosts at bay. West Chester, the third seed in the Super Region 1 bracket, opened up a 17-point lead in the third quarter with two TDs of its own.
Quarterback Sean McCartney, who finished 24-for-39 for 348 yards and three touchdowns, scored on a 1-yard QB sneak with 10 minutes left in the third and then threw a 16-yard strike to Brown in the back corner of the end zone with four minutes left that staked West Chester to a 34-17 lead after 45 minutes of play. McCartney, who was responsible for all four of the Golden Rams' touchdowns Saturday, has now thrown for a combined 769 yards and seven TDs in West Chester's two NCAA Tournament games.
"I have to give credit to the offensive line, the running backs, the full backs and all my wide receivers," McCartney explained afterwards. Head coach Bill Zwaan interjected with some thoughts of his own about his humble QB.
"You made some pretty good throws," Zwaan declared. "But, you are probably going to give credit to the defense, as well, for getting the ball back for you," he added in a light-hearted way.
In the end, Bloomsburg could not overcome its five turnovers, including a pair of fumbles from Harlon Hill finalist Franklyn Quiteh. The Huskies' star running back finished with a game-high 208 yards rushing and two touchdowns. But, it could not make up for the miscues that put Bloomsburg in a hole early.
West Chester jumped out to a 17-3 lead by the end of the first quarter. The Golden Rams punted on their first possession, but Bloomsburg muffed the return, and West Chester recovered the ball. McCartney drove the team 40 yards on 17 plays, hitting classmate LaRonn Lee for a 17-yard TD that put the visitors on top, 7-0.
Bloomsburg answered with a 27-yard field goal. However, McCartney hooked up with Brown on a 25-yard touchdown pitch and catch with 2:55 to play in the opening quarter. After the Rams' defense held, Sr., PK Shawn Leo kicked the first of his four field goals on the day at the end of the quarter to make it a 17-3 game.
"(Bloomsburg) can eat clock," Zwaan said. "You can't let them get ahead of you. So, you have to stay ahead of them."
The host Huskies began their first comeback bid in the second quarter on a pair of Quiteh rushing touchdowns. Bloomsburg drew even, 17-17, late in the first half. However, West Chester kicked a 21-yard field goal 14 seconds before halftime to send the Rams into the locker room with a 20-17 edge.
Quiteh posted 165 rushing yards in the first half to go over 2,000 for the season. But, the Golden Rams' stop unit buckled down in the second half, limiting the All-American to just 43 rushing yards after the break.
"Everybody, EVERYBODY, in the entire conference has been trying to stop him for four years, and he still had 8,000 yards rushing," Zwaan described. "It's not that easy to do. But, we put a little more pressure on (Bloomsburg) and got our safeties more involved."
Brandon Pepper recorded two takeaways on the day, stripping Quiteh of the ball late in the second quarter that eventually led to Leo's field goal in the final minute. He then intercepted Bloomsburg's Tim Kelly on the goal line with 3:21 to play and the Rams clinging to a 40-31 advantage.
"They only had two options on that play," Pepper explained. "(Bloomsburg's WR) was either going to go inside, in-between the linebackers, or cut it outside. (Kelly) kind of stared down the receiver, so I jumped it."
"Good anticipation," was how Zwaan saw the play. "For a sophomore playing in a big game, he made a big play."
"We turned the ball over too many times and that was the difference in the game," Bloomsburg first-year interim head coach Paul Darragh said. "When it comes to a team like West Chester, you need to make more plays than they do, and today we did not do that. To their credit they made one more play than we did."
West Chester advances to the NCAA quarterfinals for just the second time in school history and first since 2004. The 12th win of the season also set a new single season record for the Golden Rams.