LOCAL COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Bloomsburg University earns PSAC championship
BLOOMSBURG - Senior tailback Franklyn Quiteh has risen above the outstanding stable of running backs that have preceeded him at Bloomsburg University by breaking every rushing, touchdown and scoring record in Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference history.
What mattered most to Quiteh, however, was getting the one thing no Husky had accomplished since 1985 - a PSAC championship. Saturday against Western Division champion Slippery Rock, he made the most of his second opportunity to win that title with a performance at Redman Stadium that elevates him to nearly mythological status.
Scoring his third touchdown of the game on a 10-yard run with 27 seconds left, Quiteh capped an eight-play, 70-yard drive and completed a 42-38 comeback victory that rallied the Huskies (10-1) from a 15-point deficit in the third quarter. It was his second touchdown run in the 21-10 fourth quarter rally, his first coming on a 2-yard run to tie the score at 35-35 with 8:32 left and cap a five-play, 75-yard drive.
On the winning touchdown run, Quiteh pinned the ball against his back to prevent a fumble, kept his balance and remained upright as he approached the 5, juked a defender and then followed a block by wide receiver Glenn Hutton, Jr., into the end zone untouched. That was his 27th carry for 231 yards, giving the No. 2 all-time rusher in Division II 7,315 yards and increasing his PSAC records of 89 total touchdowns, 85 rushing touchdowns and 536 points.
"I'm not sure what happened on that run, but as long as I'm not down, I'm going to keep running," Quiteh said. "When I saw Hutton get that block, I knew I was scoring.
"Two years ago we had a chance to play for the championship and it got away. It wasn't going to happen this time, and what makes it so special is to win it with these guys and these coaches."
Even when The Rock (9-2) took a 28-13 lead with 5:13 left in the third quarter on a 74-yard touchdown pass from Nigel Barksdale, who completed 24 of 41 passes for 343 yards and two touchdowns, the Eastern Division champion Huskies never abandoned their
running game. That decision by first-year interim head coach Paul Darragh allowed them to wear down a defense that had allowed an average of 93.9 yards rushing a game and helped limit the offensive opportunities for Barksdale.
"We felt there was enough time for us to come back doing what we do, and there was no need to get away from the running game," Darragh said. "There were a few things we changed defensively, but we stayed with our offense and it came down to these guys making some outstanding plays."
A 6-yard touchdown pass from Tim Kelly to Connor Gades and a conversion run by Joe Parsnik started the comeback, capping a nine-play, 64-yard drive with 26 seconds left in the third quarter. That the Huskies were in position for a comeback was due largely to Barksdale losing a fumble on first-and-goal from the 8 and Roy Dennis recovering the ball with 51 seconds left in the half and the Rock leading 21-13.
Then the Huskies got a turnover to set up a touchdown on the first play after Gades scored when Jonathan Patrick forced a fumble after a completion and Donovan Morris recovered the ball at the 24. Quiteh ran 23 yards on the final play of the third quarter, and on the first play of the fourth quarter Parsnik scored from the 1 and Dan Fisher kicked the extra point for a 28-28 tie.
Although The Rock came back to lead 35-28 on a 44-yard punt return by Drew Scales and 38-35 on a 24-yard field goal by Mike Wainauskis with 2:53 left, Barksdale was just 5 of 12 for 68 yards in the fourth quarter and on the final play was intercepted by Gary Postell, who had 12 tackles. Linebacker Justin Shirk had a game-high 13 tackles and defensive end Larry Webster had 10 tackles and two sacks.
"We felt good with the lead, but we were never able to get the lead to three scores and take them out of their game," Rock coach George Mihalik said. "Quiteh runs so hard and is tough to bring down, and Kelly really hurt us with some key runs on third down that kept drives alive."
Kelly completed 13 of 28 passes, with two interceptions, for 173 yards, but it was his ability to scramble and convert third downs that extended drives and led to scores. He carried six times for 96 yards, including a 41-yard run that was second only to the career-best of 82 yards by Quiteh on the game's second play to the 8, setting up Parsnik's first touchdown run.
"They hurt us with some big plays on third down, but we just had to keep playing our assignments," Shirk said. "It helped that we had played Shippensburg and its hurry-up passing attack, but Barksdale was the toughest quarterback I've had to chase.
"We couldn't get down on ourselves and had to keep making plays to give our offense a chance to come back. All of us were confident we would win if we just kept making plays and doing our jobs."
And, in the long, rich tradition of Husky running backs, none has ever done their job better than Franklyn Quiteh.