Undefeated Worcester Polytechnic Institute on Saturday displayed the type of offensive balance that the Husson University football team hasn’t mastered yet this season.
The Engineers built a 24-0 second-quarter lead and defeated the Eagles 31-12 in a non-conference matchup at the Winkin Complex in Bangor.
WPI (3-0) entered the contest averaging 171 yards on the ground and 177.5 yards through the air, and its performance against Husson reflected such parity.
The Engineers rushed for 217 yards and passed for 203 while controlling the ball for more than 35 minutes of the 60-minute contest.
Halfback Sean McAllen rushed for 84 yards and three second-quarter touchdowns while backfield mate Connor Field added 81 yards and a score. Quarterback Julian Nyland completed 13 of 20 passes for 203 yards and rushed for 53 yards on six carries.
“We run the ball to be able to throw the football,” said 10th-year WPI coach Chris Robertson, whose veteran roster features 55 juniors and seniors. “If the offensive line, the tight ends and the fullbacks open things up, which they did, that allows us to get some one-on-one situations in the pass game.
“Everything kind of works off everything else. If you can’t run the ball, it’s actually tougher to throw the ball because teams don’t have to honor it as much,” he added.
Husson (0-2) did find success throwing the football. Senior quarterback David Morrison completed 25 of 41 passes for 265 yards, with Tyler Halls of Lisbon making seven catches for 114 yards and a touchdown and Keyshaun Robinson adding 75 yards and a touchdown on his seven receptions.
But the Husson ground game netted just 53 yards on 22 carries — just 2.4 yards per attempt.
“The second quarter, we couldn’t run the football, we couldn’t get any first downs and we had a hard time stopping them,” Husson coach Nat Clark said. “We just couldn’t get anything going on offense, and the defense was on the field too long.”
Husson had a great chance to strike first after senior Zach Connolly stepped in front of a Nyland pass for an interception on WPI’s first possession of the game to give the Eagles the ball at the Engineers’ 20-yard line.
Husson advanced to the 3 before a high center snap led to a fumble that was recovered by WPI’s Brent Whitlock back at the 16.
WPI then drove 84 yards in 15 plays to take a 3-0 lead on Bryce Wade’s 21-yard field goal with 2:35 left in the opening quarter.
McAllen scored his first touchdown of the day early in the second quarter, capping a 70-yard march with a 12-yard cutback run to the end zone.
McAllen added a pair of 2-yard touchdown runs before intermission, his third score coming with 2:35 left in the half to give WPI a 24-0 lead.
Husson went into full passing mode to get on the scoreboard before the break, driving 84 yards in 13 plays with all but five yards coming through the air.
A 26-yard pass from Morrison to Robinson between two defenders in the middle of the end zone produced the first touchdown scored against WPI this season with five seconds left in the half. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the Eagles led to Devin Pickett missing a 35-yard extra-point kick.
The drive served to cool some of WPI’s momentum going into the locker room, but Husson was unable to take full advantage against the Engineers’ stingy defense in the second half.
Husson finally crept closer early in the fourth quarter, with a 40-yard pass from Morrison to Halls on a fourth-and-5 play setting up a 13-yard touchdown connection between the two on the next play to make it 24-12 with 6:50 left.
WPI answered with a nine-play, 70-yard march that consumed more than five minutes before Field scored on a 4-yard run with 1:31 remaining.
“The second half we came out and fought, made a few adjustments on defense and got a little more competitive,” Clark said. We didn’t really run the football the way we wanted to in the second half, but we did some things better.”