Offense runs away from Hofstra Pride

Offense runs away from Hofstra Pride

By Chris Estrada

Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium has an AstroTurf field, so it wasn’t possible for Northeastern tailbacks Alex Broomfield and Maurice Murray to kick up any clouds of dust for Pride defenders to choke on.

Still, the Huskies were running well ahead of the Pride Saturday.

Broomfield, a sophomore, tallied a career-high in rushing with 154 yards and two touchdowns. Murray, a junior, got a pair of scores with 109 yards to power the Huskies (4-6, 3-4 Atlantic 10) in a 34-24 victory on Long Island.

It was the first time in three years NU had a pair of 100-yard rushers in the same game (2003, Tim Gale and Peter Harris against Richmond), and it gives the red and black a chance to finish at .500 in the A-10 with a victory this Saturday’s season finale at Parsons Field against Rhode Island.

“If you’re gonna run the ball, one part of it is that you better have good blocking on the offensive line,” said head coach Rocky Hager. “The other part is to have some good blocking on the perimeter by your wide receivers. We had good performances from the front line, they gave [the tailbacks] creases to the second level, and once we got to the second level, we got better yardage from there.”

After netting just 35 yards of total rushing in their 30-3 loss against Maine, the twin attack of Broomfield and Murray helped the Husky ground game come away with 235 yards against the Pride. Broomfield’s speed-driven game, along with Murray’s power running, has recently made for a solid “one-two punch,” Hager said.

“Broomfield has been an integral part of what we’ve been doing all fall,” he said. “He is a different kind of runner than Maurice and he is a nice complement to him. On the turf, his moves to get to the open field are good for us, and he made some moves, made them miss and did a heck of a job.”

Broomfield’s play earned him Boston Globe Golden Helmet honors, which is presented weekly to the football player with the most outstanding performance of New England Division I schools.

Sophomore quarterback Anthony Orio made his first start in four games after suffering an injury against Richmond earlier this season. He made his presence felt in the opening drive, leading a seven-play, 70-yard march that included a 29-yard strike to Broomfield and a 19-yard connection to senior tight end Kendrick Ballantyne (four receptions, 114 yards). Ballantyne’s receiving yardage was a career high.

The drive culminated with a nine-yard touchdown jaunt by Broomfield to give the Huskies a 7-0 lead with freshman kicker Mat Johnson’s extra point.

NU forced the Pride to go three-and-out on their next drive and proceeded to drive from the Hofstra 49 down to the Hofstra 9. The Huskies converted a fourth-and-15 to get there as Orio’s screen pass to senior receiver Bill Monan in the flat became a 16-yard gain with Monan’s pitch to a streaking Broomfield. But on second-and-seven from the nine, Orio was picked off in the endzone by Pride linebacker Luke Bonus for a touchback.

Hofstra converted the turnover into a 39-yard field goal by kicker Rob Zarrilli to make it 7-3, but the Huskies answered in due time as they drove 76 yards in just over a minute of play. They finished the drive with a two-yard touchdown run from senior fullback Shane Hopkins to make it 13-3.

Hofstra wouldn’t go quietly, however, and got back into the game late in the second quarter. On fourth-and-one with 56 seconds left in the frame, the Huskies chose to punt. But a low snap caused senior punter Jared White to bobble the ball and have to run. Pride safety Clarence Clanton knocked the ball loose from White and linebacker Greg Vineyard recovered in the endzone to pull Hofstra to 13-10 at the turn.

But the Huskies were able to “overcome their adversity,” Hager said. Northeastern would put the game out of reach in the third quarter with a pair of touchdowns. Taking advantage of a fumble recovery from senior defensive end Matt Campopiano at the Hofstra 31, Orio connected with Plum for 29 yards, setting up a two-yard touchdown run from Murray to make it 20-10.

NU got some more breathing room later in the quarter as Murray notched his second touchdown of the game with a 14-yard run to give Northeastern a 27-10 edge with 3:27 left in the period.

Hofstra would answer with a fourth-quarter touchdown from receiver Shaine Smith at the 13:59 mark to cut the deficit to 27-17, but the Huskies delivered the final blow with Broomfield’s second score of the game with 10:40 left in regulation. The six-yard touchdown run made it 34-17 and put the game out of the Pride’s reach.

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