BANGOR, Maine — Hartwick and Husson both went into Saturday’s football season opener intent on establishing a positive tone after a difficult 2011 season.
The Hawks demonstrated they are ready to put their struggles behind them.
Hartwick College cashed in on three Husson University turnovers in the first quarter and surged to a comfortable early lead while breezing to a 55-14 football victory at sun-drenched Winkin Complex.
The Hawks scored 30 points in the first 15½ minutes to take control against a youthful Eagles squad that was plagued by turnovers and surrendering big plays.
“At the end of the day, in the first five minutes we gave them three turnovers and they scored off all three of them,” said Husson coach Sean Murphy. “That’s crushing. This is about possession and field positioning and we couldn’t get enough momentum to put together a drive.”
The setback was the 15th in a row for the Eagles, who went 0-10 last season.
Hartwick outgained Husson 393 yards to 160 and the Hawks stuffed the Eagles’ running game to the tune of minus-31 yards on 24 attempts.
Hartwick, a member of the Empire 8 Conference, is coming off a 2-8 campaign. The Hawks wasted no time establishing their confidence.
On the second play of the game, junior quarterback Mike Mathews found Frankie Molina behind the Husson defense for a 60-yard touchdown hookup.
The Hawks defense responded only two plays later when Bryan Schweitzer stepped in front of a Kash Keezer pass at the 22-yard line and returned it to the 6. It set up Alex Tesoriero’s 25-yard field goal that made it 10-0 with only 2:15 gone in the game.
After the teams traded punts, Hartwick freshman cornerback Dante Crump made an impression in his collegiate debut. He intercepted two passes less than a minute apart.
His first interception of Keezer (14-for-30 passing, 191 yards, 2 TDs, 4 interceptions) came with 4:30 remaining in the quarter. His 19-yard return set up a 2-yard scoring run by Joe Rosiecki.
Two plays later, a Keezer pass went through the hands of a Husson receiver and into those of Crump, who raced 28 yards for a touchdown to give Hartwick a 23-0 lead with 3:26 left in the period.
“The D [defense] played awesome,” Mathews said. “Bryan Schweitzer with that pick in the beginning and then the freshman, Crump, had two picks.”
Mathews (7-for-15 passing, 159 yards, 3 TDs), a transfer from Ithaca College who sat out 2011 after shoulder surgery, kept the Hawks’ offense clicking. He hit Tanner Williams on a 6-yard scoring pass to cap a 57-yard drive early in the second quarter, then found Joe Dawson on a 25-yard hookup that ended his day and gave the visitors a 37-0 advantage with 4:53 to play in the half.
“The O-line blocked really well and the receivers caught the ball, so it was a good day for everyone,” Mathews said.
Backup QB Keegan Corbett tacked on a 25-yard scoring throw to John Horner with 28 seconds left to give Hartwick a commanding 44-0 halftime advantage.
“Our young guys were exposed today,” said Murphy, who conceded the team’s inexperience is a significant factor. “It’s on-the-job training and that’s unfortunate, but they’re learning and they’re going to get better.”
Molina (3 catches, 81 yards, 1 TD) and Williams (3-44-1) paced the Hawks’ receiver corps while Brandon Beatty headed the ground game with 58 yards on 11 carries.
Hartwick took its foot off the accelerator in the second half and used backup players for the rest of the game.
The huge early deficit meant Husson had to throw often. Keezer, a former Orono standout, wound up being sacked nine times playing behind an offensive front that includes two freshmen.
“To their credit, they did a really nice job defensively,” Murphy said. “We were exposed with the young guys on our offensive line.”
Keezer hooked up with junior tight end Ben Foss of Wales for two second-half touchdowns on plays of 30 and 61 yards.
Foss caught three balls for 98 yards and Devin Sherman made six receptions for 60 yards.
Defensive end Ernest Wiggins had a productive day for Husson with 11 tackles, including 3½ sacks. Linebacker Stephan Dance racked up 10 tackles.
Hartwick’s defensive leaders included Mike Parody and Clyde Miller, along with Crump.
Husson returns to Winkin Complex next Saturday for a clash against Springfield College.