Junior cornerback Quan Soyini became Husson University’s career interceptions leader in Saturday’s NCAA Division III playoff game at Springfield College. His 13th interception couldn’t have come at a better time.
Soyini picked off Jake Eglintine’s pass with 1:52 remaining to seal Husson’s first-ever NCAA postseason victory, a 23-21 win over the previously undefeated and 19th-ranked Pride.
Coach Gabby Price’s Eagles (10-1) have won eight straight and travel to Doylestown, Pa., to play 11-0 Delaware Valley at noon on Saturday. The winner advances to the national quarterfinals.
Delaware Valley used three touchdowns of over 50 yards to beat Western New England 35-0 on Saturday. WNE dealt Husson its only loss (21-14) on Sept. 23.
The Husson defense held the nation’s top rushing offense (452.3 yards per game) to only 264 yards behind the play of Elvin Suazo Jr. (11 tackles, forced fumble) and Christian Mowrer (7 tackles, forced fumble).
The Eagles countered with a well-balanced attack. Quarterback Cory Brandon completed 20 of 30 passes for 209 yards and a touchdown, but was intercepted twice. Kyree Callie led the receivers with seven receptions for 64 yards.
John Smith provided the run presence, churning out 164 yards on 43 carries with two touchdowns.
Husson’s balance enabled it to build a commanding 29 1/2-minute edge in time of possession and an 80-47 disparity in offensive plays.
Springfield had two 100-yard rushers in Hunter Belzo (9 carries, 113 yds., TD) and Jordan Wilcox (22-111, 2 TDs), but was 0-for-3 through the air.
Trailing 23-21, Springfield marched from its own 15-yard line to Husson’s 40 but Soyini intercepted Eglintine’s third pass attempt of the afternoon for the option-oriented Pride.
Husson opened the scoring with 10:33 remaining in the second period when Brandon tossed a 36-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Gaudet to cap a 13-play, 83-yard drive. Devin Pickett added the extra point.
The Pride answered on the next drive, stringing together a 12-play, 67-yard march culminating in Wilcox’s two-yard run on a fourth-and-goal. It was his 20th rushing touchdown of the season.
The Eagles responded by going 61 yards in seven plays, keyed by completions of 19 and 17 yards from Brandon to Robenson Saintard. Smith’s 12-yard scoring run made it 14-6 before halftime.
Springfield equalized after Christian Zotti’s 24-yard interception return set up a 1-yard TD dive by Wilcox early in the third quarter.
Husson answered with a 15-play, 65-yard scoring drive that featured completions of 12, 10 and 6 yards from Brandon to Calli and was capped by Smith’s 5-yard touchdown run. A botched PAT snap left the Eagles on top 20-14.
Husson built on its advantage quickly after Suazo Jr. forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and the Eagles took over at the Springfield 29. Smith carried eight times for 18 yards to help set up Pickett’s 22-yard field goal that made it 23-14 with 14:12 to play.
The Pride made it a one-score game midway through the fourth quarter when Belzo sprinted 52 yards for a score to cap a six-play drive with 7:03 to play.
Husson burned 3:36 off the clock on its next possession, then got the Soyini interception before closing out the victory.