Western New England pulls ahead for good on late Smith touchdown pass
BANGOR, Maine (September 15, 2018) – In a back and forth contest that featured six lead changes in the second half alone, Western New England University came away with a thrilling 31-28 victory over Husson University on Saturday afternoon in non-conference action at the Winkin Complex.
Juniors Alec Coleman (Arlington, Mass.) and Brendan Smith (Seekonk, Mass.) split the quarterback duties, as Coleman went 14-for-25 with 142 yards and one touchdown, and Smith completed 6-of-7 passes for 68 yards and one score. Coleman also picked up 35 yards and found the end zone on the ground, while Smith led the game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter and connected with sophomore Steven Fedorchak (Guilderland, N.Y.) for the go-ahead touchdown with 3:12 remaining.
Junior Jared Wolfe (Seaford, N.Y.) was Western New England's top receiver, as he caught seven passes for 77 yards.
Defensively, senior captain Chris Quarles (Naugatuck, Conn.) posted a team-high 11 tackles, while freshman linebacker Joshua Salem (Dracut, Mass.) finished with ten stops (2 for loss), one sack and a pass breakup. Senior linebacker Kevin McLaughlin (Colorado Springs, Colo.) recorded a sack and forced a fumble, and senior cornerback Tommy Ganley (Delmar, N.Y.) sealed the win with a late interception.
Husson senior quarterback Cory Brandon (Pembroke, Mass.) completed 23-of-38 pass attempts for 258 yards and three touchdowns. Freshman running back Solomon Hassen (Los Angeles, Calif.) rushed 28 times for 121 yards, while junior tight end Keyshaun Robinson (Brooklyn, N.Y.) made five receptions for 59 yards and two scores.
Senior linebacker Elvin Suazo (Brooklyn, N.Y.) led the Eagles on the defensive side with a game-high 13 tackles.
Western New England, which led 3-0 at halftime after a 27–yard Valentin Wagner (Saint Aubin de Medoc, France) field goal early in the second quarter, upped its advantage to 10-0 following an eight-yard touchdown run by Coleman at the 9:22 mark of the third quarter. The score was set up by sophomore Aaron Lamar's (North Conway, N.H.) blocked punt that gave the Golden Bears a short field to work with.
The Eagles answered less than a minute later, however, as Hassen broke free for a 54-yard run and Brandon found Robinson for a 15-yard score on the next play to make it a three-point game (10-7).
Husson took the lead for the first time (14-10) with 4:08 remaining in the third when Brandon connected with Robinson again, but Western New England responded with a six-play, 70-yard drive that culminated in a 21-yard touchdown pass from Coleman to freshman AJ Hall (Norwalk, Conn.).
Western New England's 17-14 lead didn't last long, as Husson senior Ty Bassett (Dracut, Mass.) returned the ensuing kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown to put the Eagles ahead 21-17.
Neither team threatened to score on their next possession, but the Golden Bears got the ball back with at the Husson 30-yard line following a 15-yard punt by Michael Popolizio (Farmington, Conn.) with 12:11 left in the game. Western New England capitalized on the opportunity, as junior Byron Jones (West Hartford, Conn.) started the drive with a 28-yard run to the Husson 2-yard line, and junior running back Peter Hoff (Shelton, Conn.) punched it in on the next play.
Husson regained the lead (28-24) for the final time with 8:04 on the clock on a 30-yard touchdown pass from Brandon to sophomore Tyler Halls (Lisbon, Maine).
Western New England again answered, as Smith orchestrated a 12-play, 75-yard go-ahead drive that included a six-yard run by junior Byron Jones (West Hartford, Conn.) on fourth and one from the Husson 26-yard line. Three plays after Jones' key conversion, Smith found Fedorchak for a 19-yard touchdown to give the Golden Bears a 31-28 edge with 3:12 to play.
The Eagles converted a pair of fourth down tries on their final drive and advanced the ball all the way to the Western New England 22-yard line, but Ganley picked off Brandon in the end zone with 31 seconds remaining to seal the triumph.
• Western New England is now 3-0 all-time against Husson, with all three meetings coming over the past three seasons. The Golden Bears defeated the Eagles 44-27 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in 2016, before rallying to earn a 21-14 victory during last season's homecoming contest.
• Western New England amassed 350 yards of total offense, with 210 yards through the air and 140 on the ground. Husson finished with 374 yards, including 258 passing and 116 rushing.
• Senior Vinny Lalumia (Maywood, N.J.) pinned three of his six punts inside the Husson 20-yard line.
Next Saturday, Western New England (2-1) returns home to complete its non-conference slate against Anna Maria, while Husson (1-2) travels to SUNY Maritime.