Virginia Union entered Saturday’s game against Kutztown University with the top run defense and third-ranked overall defense in NCAA Division II.
Despite the tough competition, it was business as usual for the Golden Bears and their potent rushing attack.
Third-seeded Kutztown ran for 210 yards and scored four offensive touchdowns in the first half on its way to a dominant 38-14 win over sixth-seeded Virginia Union in the opening round of the NCAA Division II football playoffs at Andre Reed Stadium.
“That’s KU football,” Golden Bears coach Jim Clements said. “We’re physical and we’re going to run the ball.”
Kutztown (10-2) took a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and remained in control to advance to the second round for the third time in the last four seasons. The Golden Bears’ 38 points were the most they have scored in an NCAA postseason game in program history.
On defense, Kutztown allowed just one offensive touchdown and stifled drives, as the Panthers converted on just 3-of-13 third downs.
“We were really good in all three phases of the game,” Clements said. “Take away that first opening drive they had in the second half, (and) I thought we played spot on pretty much the whole game, defensively.”
Against a defense that was holding its opponents to 37.3 rushing yards per game, Kuztown ran for more than 200 yards for the third time in the last four weeks. Running back Darryl Davis-McNeil led the way with 95 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries, while quarterback Judd Novak had 66 yards on seven attempts.
“They were dialed in,” Clements said about the offense. “The offensive line played extremely well.”
The Golden Bears opened the scoring midway through the first quarter on a 1-yard touchdown run from Davis-McNeil. Saturday marked the graduate student’s third straight game with a touchdown.
“Darryl is a stud,” Clements said. “He runs angry. The last two weeks, he’s run the ball really well.”
Kutztown scored again on its next possession, as wide receiver Mekhi Gibson got the ball on the reverse and ran for an 8-yard touchdown. The redshirt freshman had two carries for 18 yards and the score and three catches for 56 yards.
“Mekhi is explosive when he has the ball in his hands,” Clements said. “He has a different gear and a nose for the end zone.”
The Golden Bears’ special teams came up big late in the first quarter as Gov. Mifflin grad Kam Wolfe blocked a punt deep in Panthers’ territory. The bouncing ball was scooped up by Luke Szabo, who ran 2 yards for the touchdown to extend Kutztown’s lead.
“It was awesome,” Wolfe said about the play. “It was a lot of fun.”
The Golden Bears extended their lead midway through the second quarter when Novak found tight end Tyreek Husser for a 7-yard touchdown. With a 28-0 lead following the extra point, Kutztown had all the momentum.
“That was huge,’ Clements said. “We’re pretty tough if we can get a lead like that.”
Novak, a redshirt freshman, finished 8-of-18 passing for 157 yards. He extended several plays with his legs and did not throw an interception for the fourth straight game.
“You have to play with confidence, especially as a quarterback — trust yourself, trust your teammates, trust your coaches,” Novak said. “It was a huge confidence booster when we scored early.”
No. 13 Virginia Union (10-2) got on the board late in the second quarter with a blocked punt of its own. Ephraim Moore blocked the punt deep in Golden Bears’ territory, and Kenneth Davis scooped up the ball and returned it 10 yards for the touchdown.
Kutztown responded less than three minutes later as Novak found wide receiver Kurtis Ravenel Jr. for a 29-yard touchdown. After Virginia Union missed a 40-yard field goal as time expired in the first half, the Golden Bears led 35-7 at the break.
“Judd is doing a really good job of spreading the ball around,” Clements said. “Tough to defend.”
The Panthers scored on their opening drive of the second half when running back Jada Byers ran for an 8-yard touchdown. Byers finished with 101 yards and the score on 20 carries.
“Tough loss,” Virginia Union coach Dr. Alvin Parker said. “Hats off to Coach Clements and his group. They were a well buttoned-up group and they did a heck of a job.”
Kutztown kicker Dawson Evitts made a 24-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to extend the Golden Bears’ lead.
The Golden Bears will continue their postseason against second-seeded Charleston (W.Va.) in the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs at a time and location to be determined. The Golden Eagles beat seventh-seeded New Haven 52-44 in the first round on Saturday.
“We’re proud of our guys and especially our seniors to continue to march on and keep this thing going,” Clements said.
Source: Berkshire mont