BANGOR, Maine — After being manhandled in their season-opener last week, the Husson University Eagles got back to basics and took out their frustrations at home against Utica College.
Husson’s interior lines were dominant, controlling the lines of scrimmage for much of the game, and the Eagles simply wore down the visiting Pioneers en route to a convincing 34-17 victory at Winkin Complex Saturday afternoon.
Husson’s offensive line was especially impressive as it manhandled Utica’s defensive front at times as the Eagles rushed for 285 total yards. Center Mike Austin of Turner, guards Kyle Wedge of Buxton and Ben Emmot of Woolwich, and tackles Ryan Esmail and Jon Benson of Biddeford paved the way for two, 100-yard rushing performances.
Julius Williams had 111 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries while fellow tailback Justin Lindie of Winslow had 101 yards and two touchdowns — Husson’s first and last scores — on 27 carries.
“They usually do the job up front for us. We feed off them and they feed off us,” said Williams, who capped arguably the biggest drive of the day for Husson with a 3-yard TD run off right tackle with 3:12 left in the third quarter.
The score ended a 60-yard, six-play (all runs) drive that came immediately after Utica drew within three points courtesy of a defensive touchdown. Utica’s Vinson Jones nearly sacked Husson quarterback James McCandles for a safety, but McCandles wasn’t out of danger as Jeff Champlin stripped the ball out of his hands with a hard tackle. Terrell Cunningham recovered the fumble for a touchdown to make it 20-17 Husson with 5:22 left in the third.
As much as that play revitalized the 0-2 Pioneers, Husson’s answering drive deflated them.
“Our coaches challenged our backfield to get out there and put them away, and that drive right there was the key to our victory,” said Williams, who rushed for 38 of Husson’s 60 yards in the drive.
“We got back within 10 and I thought we were right back in it, but they came back with that long drive and I think it wore us down a little bit,” said Utica coach Chris Faggiano. “We knew they were going to be physical. I thought at times we were, but there was one drive where they really rammed it down our throats pretty good.”
That’s not to say the Eagles weren’t distinguishing themselves in the air. McCandles played a conservative passing game with just eight attempts, but completed four for 107 yards — 81 of which came on a TD pass down the right flat to wide-open freshman receiver Ben Grant of Winslow five minutes into the second half.
“Getting one at home is big anyway, but we needed a confidence booster after last week and this definitely helped us,” said McCandles. “We definitely made a lot of improvement in one week. Last week, we couldn’t find our groove and momentum, but today we had it right from the start.”
Defensively, the 1-1 Eagles yielded almost every yard Utica gained very grudgingly. The Pioneers were held to 2.4 yards per carry en route to just 87 on 36 rushes. Passing-wise, Utica QB Keith Barone enjoyed more success, but paid for his 190 yards on 22-for-40 passing with one interception and four sacks — 3½ by junior linebacker Bobby Gilbert of Beaver Cove.
Gilbert also led Husson with 10 solo tackles and four assists.
“Bobby was just immense. I don’t believe anybody could play any better,” said Husson head coach Gabby Price.
Defensive back Kyle Vanidestine, a sophomore from Bangor, also had a standout game with seven solo tackles, one assist, and an interception.