LOCK HAVEN - Involved in a back-and-forth scrap with West Virginia State University, the Lock Haven football team exploded for 28 unanswered points in the third quarter to roll to a 31-13 win over the Yellow Jackets at sun-splashed Jack Stadium Saturday afternoon.
It was the second consecutive win for the Bald Eagles (1-0) after they closed out the 2012 season with a win over Cheyney that snapped a 52-game losing streak.
"It really feels good," said Lock Haven head coach John Allen with a big smile on his face. "The first quarter was about feeling them out and we just had to settle in on what they were doing. They did some things we were expecting and they also did some things that were a little bit different. It just took us a little bit to adjust to it and once we figured it out near the end of the second quarter, we were able to go in at halftime and make some adjustments. It was just a fun win and two-and-oh, yeah it does feel good."
After two possessions by each team proved nothing, the Bald Eagles caught a break when a Lock Haven punt was muffed and recovered by Jordan Stouch on the West Virginia State 8-yard-line.
Three plays only netted the Bald Eagles 2 yards and that brought Alex Boumerhi on for a 28-yard field goal and a 3-0 LHU lead.
However, on their next possession, the Jackets answered with a 25-yard field goal by Josh Reuber two minutes into the second quarter for a tie.
Following the pair of field goals, the Bald Eagles (1-0) appeared to have received a huge break when the WVSU punter went to his knees to corral a low snap on the Jackets 43.
On the first play following the mistake, Lock Haven gave the ball right back when Caleb Walton's pass was picked off by Haley Romell in the end zone for a touchback.
After dodging the bullet, the Jackets put together a drive that carried them from their own 20 to the Bald Eagles 5-yard line where Reuber nailed his second field goal of the game, a 22-yard effort to give the Jackets a 6-3 lead at the break.
In the first half, the Yellow Jackets showed a huge advantage in terms of offensive performance as they ran 44 plays for 240 yards, while the Bald Eagles totaled 63 yards on 24 plays. Just as successful as they were in the first half, the Jackets found themselves completely bottled up by the LHU defense in the final 30 minutes.
"Defensively we played hard all the way through," Allen said. "I can't say enough about the job those guys (on defense) did. They (WVSU) got down in the green zone a couple of times and we held them to a pair of field goals and we blocked one. It was just a great performance by all of those guys."
As for the defensive turnaround and the explosion by the offense, Allen said it was just a matter of making a few adjustments and then executing.
"There wasn't really much to say to them at halftime," he said. "It was more about, hey, we know where we are and although it took us a little longer offensively to figure out where we needed to go, we felt good about where we were and the guys were confident in what we wanted to do. Once we got out there and made a few plays, all of a sudden things just started clicking and what was happening felt comfortable to them."
The Bald Eagles came out of the locker room and took their first possession to the house. Quarterback Dillion Mazzoni hit a wide-open Jesse Hoover for 32 yards and Lock Haven's first TD of the season.
Boumerhi's PAT made it 10-6 less than three minutes into the third quarter.
While Lock Haven's initial possession of the second half went well, WVSU's didn't.
Faced with a punting situation deep in WVSU territory, the punter was called for an illegal kick at the Jacket 8-yard line when he booted the ball through the end zone.
On the first play from the 3, Brandon Brader scooted into the end zone for Lock Haven's second touchdown in less than four minutes. Boumerhi made it 17-6 LHU less than five minutes into the third quarter.
"The thing that is different from a year ago is when we got the ball in a situation like that on the three-yard line, we put the ball in the end zone," Allen said. "The biggest difference in from the last couple of years is that we are able to capitalize on (opponent's) mistakes and that was exciting to see."
Held to just 25 yards in the first half, Brader turned things up a little in the second half to finish with 66 yards. .
On their next possession, the Bald Eagles, aided by several WVSU mistakes, kept the offense in high gear as they scored for the third time in less than nine minutes, Brader bullied in from 3 yards out for the score and the Bald Eagle lead ballooned to 24-6 with 6:22 left.
The LHU offensive caravan kept moving on its next possession as it completed a 28-point third quarter when Mazzoni hit James Wilbern in stride for a 51-yard TD connection.
The Yellow Jackets picked up their only touchdown of the game with less than three minutes left on the clock to set the final.
LHU opens PSAC-West play next week at Clarion.