Story and photo courtesy of Kutztown Athletics
– Most members of the Kutztown University football team were just youngsters the last time KU defeated Bloomsburg. Thanks to an outstanding all-around team effort, KU roared to an historic 52-14 win over the Huskies in a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Eastern Division matchup in front of a record-setting crowd at University Field Saturday afternoon.
With the win, the Golden Bears (9-1 overall, 6-1 PSAC East) earn a share of the PSAC East title and the division's top seed. It was KU's first win over Bloomsburg since 1992 and second division title in the 96-year history of the program. As a result, the Golden Bears will host PSAC West champion Slippery Rock for the PSAC title Saturday, Nov. 12 beginning at 1:05 pm. at University Field (Slippery Rock replaces Gannon as the final regular season opponent). A win would give KU its first-ever PSAC title, and will likely ensure the program's second-straight berth to the NCAA Playoffs.
Fans packed into University Field Saturday afternoon and took a seat wherever one was available. With additional seating and standing room only sections made available, over 8,000 fans made the trip to see one of the most anticipated games in KU history.
“The atmosphere and this crowd today really passed our expectations,” head coach Raymond Monica said. “We have great fans and an administration that supports us. I don't think in your wildest dreams, anyone could imagine an atmosphere like that here at Kutztown University.”
Kutztown entered the game ranked 13th in the latest American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) top poll. Bloomsburg, coming off its first loss of the season, came in ranked 12th in the national poll.
Junior quarterback Kevin Morton continued to lead his team offensively with a flawless outing under center. Morton threw for 302 yards with four TD strikes on 21-for-34 passing. He also rushed for 60 yards and a score. Morton has now thrown 140 pass attempts, spanning over five games, without an interception.
With Morton's spot-on passes and the stellar protection from his offensive line, the KU offense was simply too explosive for the BU defense to handle. It's starting offensive line of Aaron McGlynn, Nick Maloney, Chase Fraley, Rob Kee and Chris Oliver have protected Morton all season, and currently rank sixth in the PSAC in sacks allowed per game (2.00).
Josh Smith hauled in three TD scores to go along with a career-high 144 receiving yards in the victory. The senior has racked up 487 yards this season and leads the Golden Bears with ten TD grabs. Fellow senior Erik Frazier also caught a TD pass and finished with three catches for 44 yards.
Kutztown found momentum to build off of from the first play from scrimmage. Bloom threw its opening pass down the field, which was well-covered and intercepted by KU's Corey Harris. His 40-yard return to midfield would set up an opening, 43-yard field goal for freshman kicker Jack Ruggieri to give KU a lead it would never give up.
Ruggieri converted on all seven of his extra point attempts Saturday. He is a perfect 58-for-58 this season which is a KU single-season record.
A key play in the first half which helped KU build its lead was a crucial fourth down call midway through the first quarter. Monica called in a fake field goal attempt, a play he has been working on for six years in his time at KU. Holder Zach Snyder rushed four yards up the middle to keep the KU drive alive and set up an eventual one-yard TD run by senior running back Robbie Frey.
Frey led the Golden Bears with 85 yards rushing on 19 carries. The addition of Frey this season has significantly helped the KU rushing attack, especially down the stretch when closing out games. The transfer from Connecticut, and resident of nearby Lehighton, has become one of Division II's greatest all-purpose runners this season and is thrilled to be playing in front of his home-town fans.
“I'm couldn't be happier to be a part of this team right now,” Frey said. “It feels great to be able to come back home and play in front of my friends and family. I feel we did a great job today of finishing out the game, but now we are focused on preparing for Slippery Rock.”
Kutztown's defense has played a significant role is helping it take that apparent step forward from last season. It has now forced a turnover in 20 of its last 22 games and is only getting better throughout the season. In its last three games, KU has been able to shut down three of the top offenses in the PSAC in C.W. Post, West Chester and Bloomsburg.
“You have to give credit where credit is due,” Monica said. “I think our defense is playing with an attitude about them right now, and they did another great job today. Especially in the last three weeks, they are really coming together as a unit.”
BU threw for just 75 yards Saturday, the second-lowest total of the season. KU's secondary held Bloom without a pass completion until midway through the second quarter. Alex DiNolfi made his conference-leading eighth interception of the season. He is also creeping up on the KU single-season record of ten, set by Kevin Keeler in 1976.
Jason Henshaw had a game-high nine tackles on the front line along with a QB hurry. Harris and Brett Moss each chipped in seven tackles, followed by John Kreuer and Bill McMonigle with six apiece. Freshman cornerback English Peay shutdown BU's top receivers all day and tallied three pass breakups and three tackles.
“We knew they were going to come out and try and run the ball like they did last year against us,” junior linebacker Andrew Hodges said. “We played aggressive and fast. If one person missed a tackle, the next guy had to step up and finish the play and I think we did a pretty good job of that today.”
Josh Mastromatto has had a breakout junior season for the Golden Bears. Early in the fourth quarter, Mastromatto just about sealed the victory with an 83-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to put KU up 45-14. It was the second kickoff return of the season for Mastromatto, who also took one the length of the field against East Stroudsburg on Oct. 8. Morton and Mastromatto connected eight times for 66 yards, most of which coming off screen-type plays that the Huskies did not have an answer for.
Kutztown was able to control the ball, and the clock on Saturday. It converted on ten of its 17 third-down tries, and moved the chains on all three of its fourth-down attempts.
Bloomsburg (8-2, 5-2) saw a solid performance from its top rusher in Franklyn Quiteh. The sophomore ran for 151 yards on 13 carries. Quarterback Pat Carey had passing and rushing touchdowns in the setback. He connected with Ryan Dickerson for a 14-yard TD pass right before the Mastromatto return.
Kutztown now looks ahead to Western Division opponent, Slippery Rock. KU is 0-7 all-time against The Rock. Kickoff for next Saturday's conference championship is set for 1:05 p.m. from University Field.