LIU Post quarterback Steven Laurino passes during a game against...

LIU Post quarterback Steven Laurino passes during a game against American International College on Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014. Credit: Lee S. Weissman

Moments after this season-ending loss, the Pioneers were understandably somber and the pervading thought was this: It's not so much the defeat they now lament, but how it happened.

A melding of mishaps and missed opportunities doomed No. 6 LIU Post as it fell to third-seeded Virginia State, 28-17, in the first round of the NCAA Division II football tournament Saturday.

"We hurt ourselves a lot," said quarterback Steven Laurino, who threw three interceptions. "If you lose with your best, so be it. But we didn't have our best day. You don't want it to end like that."

Kavon Bellamy ran for 131 yards and his two second-half touchdowns led Virginia State from behind. Bellamy scored on a 1-yard plunge to give VSU a 21-17 lead in the third quarter, and he added another 1-yard TD with 10:42 remaining. The Trojans visit Bloomsburg on Saturday.

"There's a lot of disappointment because we feel we could've performed better," Pioneers coach Bryan Collins said. "We're competitors and we're going to feel it."

That pain will subside a bit in time and the Pioneers will reflect once more. And it won't be so much about this game, but how it happened.

The Pioneers (8-4) made their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2005, capturing the Northeast-10 title en route, and enjoyed a season filled with several comeback victories. Quite the turnaround for a program that had sub-.500 records the previous two years.

"All season, they've battled adversity and come through," Collins said. "Today was no different, but we just didn't have that 'it' we've had before."

It appeared for a while they did, after Karsten Viste's 34-yard field goal gave them a 17-14 lead as the second quarter expired. Andre Rawls had returned an interception 83 yards for a score to put VSU ahead 14-7 with 4:31 left in the second, but Laurino's 3-yard TD run tied it two minutes later.

Tarian Ayres' 11-yard TD run put the Trojans (10-2) on the board in the first quarter. Post responded with a 17-point second, highlighted by Laurino's 20-yard TD pass to Shane Hubbard on a fade. On fourth-and-11, the wideout made a diving grab in the back of the end zone with a defender draped on him.

Laurino, who was named Northeast-10 MVP last week, was 29-for-58 for 260 yards. Hubbard had eight catches for 92 yards, including a one-handed reception while falling out of bounds that his quarterback described as "Megatron stuff."

Sean Binckes had eight catches for 89 yards and David White ran for 105 yards in place of tailback Mike Williams, who suffered a leg injury in the first quarter. Kenny Scotland had three sacks and Richard Wright an interception.

But the Pioneers, who entered averaging 34.9 points, floundered in the second half with a missed field goal and two drives that stalled in the red zone. Penalties and dropped passes derailed promising drives, and Laurino was intercepted twice in the final 10 minutes. "I missed more than a few throws that I normally don't," he said. "The ball was kind of slipping out of my hand. No excuses, though."

Ultimately, not many regrets, either.

"I love this team and we're going to keep our heads up," defensive back Jhaleel Oswald said. "It hurts right now, but we did win a [conference] championship. When we look back on this season, we should be proud."

In time, they will be.

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