Kutztown’s unprecedented 10-1 run through the 2010 regular season earned them Super Region 1’s top seed in the NCAA Division II playoffs. The Golden Bears recorded their best regular season in the program’s long history, one that had been marked with mediocrity and futility.
Yet, despite hosting the school’s first ever NCAA playoff game – a 41-34 loss to Shepherd – one thing eluded the Golden Bears during that run: The PSAC Eastern Division title and a berth in the State Game.
That went to Bloomsburg by virtue of a 61-35 shellacking at Redman Stadium. The Huskies would travel to Erie to face Mercyhurst in the State Game, won by the Lakers 56-37.
The Golden Bears also travelled to Erie that weekend … to face Gannon in a cross-over game. Kutztown would knock off the Golden Knights 27-24.
Suffice to say that today’s showdown at Kutztown’s University Field between the Huskies (8-1, 5-1 PSAC East) and Kutztown (8-1, 5-1) is bound to be another classic PSAC East shootout. Yet, the Golden Bears haven’t forgotten about last year’s humiliation at Bloomsburg.
“Guys are pumped and ready,” said defensive end Brett Moss. “That bad taste is still in their mouth from last year’s game.”
Moss played at East Stroudsburg last season following two years at Lackawanna College in Scranton, so he didn’t experience last season’s loss.
Junior running back Josh Mastromatto, however, was.
“It’s going to be a repeat of last year, only this time it’s at our place,” he said. “We feel very confident going into that game.”
Mastromatto was held to minus-1 yard rushing on five attempts; as a team, the Golden Bears were held to 61 net rushing yards while the Huskies gained 449 yards on the ground, led by Franklyn Quiteh’s 194 yards.
The Golden Bears can clinch their first berth in the State Game since 1980 (a 15-14 loss to Clarion) and a share of the PSAC East title with a win over the Huskies. C.W. Post, whom Kutztown beat 42-30 on Long Island two weeks ago, would also finish with a 6-1 mark with a win over Cheyney; the Bears, however, hold the tiebreaker.
“You know you’re playing for the PSAC East,” said right tackle Chris Oliver. “So it’s definitely a bigger emphasis on going hard at practice and getting focused.”
A Bloomsburg win with a C.W. Post loss gives the Huskies the State Game berth; otherwise, C.W. Post gets to host Slippery Rock next Saturday for the PSAC championship.
Kutztown head coach Ray Monica is certainly looking for a better performance from Mastromatto this time around. Though with senior transfer Robbie Frey (Connecticut), the Golden Bears seem to have an answer to Bloom’s two-headed rushing attack of Quiteh and Eddie Mateo.
“[Mastromatto and Frey] are very different types of backs,” Monica said. “It’s nice to have those two on our team.”
Monica was also quick to mention sophomore Curtis Wortham as another threat from the backfield.
“Curtis does a tremendous job also,” Monica said. “He didn’t carry the ball quite as much (against West Chester) as in some other games, but we’ve got three very capable backs.”
And, of course, there’s quarterback Kevin Morton.
Mother Nature rendered Morton a mere afterthought inside Farrell Stadium last Saturday. However, the junior from Abington remains the PSAC’s most efficient quarterback (163.2) and is also tied for the league lead in touchdown passes (27) with Shippensburg’s Zach Zulli.
The Huskies, coming off a gut-wrenching 24-21 loss to C.W. Post last week, have shown signs of vulnerability in recent weeks. Bloomsburg trailed West Chester 35-0 before scoring 55 straight points en route to a 55-42 win two weeks ago at Farrell Stadium.
“With [last week’s] win, that gives us more confidence for this PSAC title,” said Moss, who recorded 2.5 sacks in the Golden Bears’ 24-0 shutout over West Chester in conditions more reminiscent of the Vince Lombardi-era Ice Bowl instead of a fall weekend in Chester County.
“We haven’t won a PSAC [division title] since 1980,” Oliver said. “It’ll be a very big win for the school and the program.”
Even Frey, the transfer from UConn, recognizes the impact of this game.
“It’s just another game,” Frey added. “But, we know what’s at stake here.”
PREDICTION: Bloomsburg enters today’s game with an 18 game winning streak over Kutztown. Given the Huskies’ struggles last week against C.W. Post, they are vulnerable. Like the West Chester game two weeks ago, the Huskies will face the Golden Bears during their Homecoming game. Unlike the Golden Rams, expect the Golden Bears to bring their “A Game” for a full 60 minutes. Don’t be surprised if junior defensive back Alex DiNolfi, the PSAC’s leader in interceptions with seven, takes one back for a Pick Six (bonus prediction). And Morton won’t have Mother Nature to contend with, either. Kutztown 35, Bloomsburg 21
ELSEWHERE IN THE PSAC
Cheyney (1-8, 0-6) vs. C.W. Post (5-4, 5-1): The Pioneers could be excused if they have a slight let down against a Wolves team that lost a 10-6 slugfest to an East Stroudsburg team with no resemblance of a defense. Then again, this is Cheyney we’re talking about. C.W. Post does its part to attempt to earn a berth in the State Game, though Kutztown renders it moot.C.W. Post 45, Cheyney 6
East Stroudsburg (2-7, 1-5) at Shippensburg (5-4, 3-3): Shippensburg complicated matters in the PSAC East with their Week 5 49-7 upset of Kutztown at Seth Grove Stadium. That was the highlight of the 2011 season as the Red Raiders season. Zulli will have a field day with the Warriors’ next-to-worst-in-the-PSAC defense as the “Will Denny Douds return for a 39th season” rumors undoubtedly start to circulate around the Poconos. Shippensburg 52, East Stroudsburg 17
West Chester (4-5, 3-3) at Millersville (3-6, 2-4): After back-to-back stinkers at home, the Golden Rams are probably happy to be away from the house of horrors that has become Farrell Stadium. In all honesty, West Chester should probably be thankful that Millersville lacks a reasonable facsimile of an offense. The Golden Rams escape Biemersderfer Stadium with a win, but once can only imagine what happens if Millersville somehow pulls off an upset. West Chester 34, Millersville 17
Edinboro (7-2, 4-2 PSAC West) at California (Pa.) (7-2, 5-1): Both the Fighting Scots and the Vulcans have outside shots of earning berths in the NCAA Division II playoffs, so even though this game has no impact on the PSAC West standings, thanks to Slippery Rock’s dominating season, it’s still a critical game at Adamson Stadium. In what shapes up to be a battle between two evenly matched teams, look for the Scots to effectively knock the Vulcans out of playoff contention. Edinboro 27, Cal 20
Slippery Rock (9-1, 6-0) at Gannon (3-6, 2-4): The Rock shouldn’t be looking past a Golden Knights team that owns two consecutive wins in this series. Then again, The Rock didn’t clinch a berth in the State Game in either of the last two seasons, either. Look for The Rock to easily prevail in a warm up for next week’s State Game. Slippery Rock 27, Gannon 10
Mercyhurst (3-6, 1-5) at Clarion (2-7, 2-4): The fall from the top of the PSAC West has been precipitous for the Lakers, who have lost five games in a row since Trevor Rearick was injured against Gannon. Fortunately, the Lakers face a Golden Eagle squad whose passing attack is sketchy at best. The Lakers snap their streak with an easy win. Mercyhurst 28, Clarion 13
Indiana (Pa.) (5-3, 4-2) at Lock Haven (0-8, 0-6): Fresh off last week’s disappointing loss in the Coal Bowl game with Cal, the Crimson Hawks get a virtual bye. The last time the Bald Eagles defeated IUP, Ronald Reagan was in his first year as President of the United States. You can put consecutive loss number 41 on the board for the Baldies, as IUP’s Harvie Tuck racks up at least 200 yards. Indiana 51, Lock Haven 7