Chuck Bitner

Ship Prevails to win PSAC East, Other Headlines from Week 9

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I really love football. I love to watch for many reasons, and perhaps the biggest reason I love it is that so many times I see things that inspire me. On Saturday at Seth Grove Stadium, I watched two incredible teams that impressed and inspired me. The Shippensburg Red Raiders earned their second PSAC Eastern division crown in the past four years with an unbelievable 49-42 victory over the visiting Bloomsburg Huskies. Ship did what they do best by scoring early and often to race out to a 35-7 half time lead. But then it was Bloomsburg’s turn to do what they do best, which his fight with tireless effort and determination to claw back into the game.

Coming back from a 28 point half time deficit on the road is usually not possible, especially when the opponent has the best offense in the entire nation. Yet the Huskies managed to do it. They were blown off the field by Ship’s 35-7 run in the first half, but the Huskies outscored the Raiders 35-7 over the next 27 minutes of play and tied the game at 42 with less than three minutes to play. Like last year’s record-setting comeback at West Chester, it was an unbelievably courageous performance. The defense started to force punts and turnovers (including Jarrett Pidgeon’s interception return for a touchdown that really sparked the turnaround) and got enough pressure on Zach Zulli to take away his deep ball touch. The Huskies ultimately gave up the final scoring drive on the last possession, but it was a remarkable, courageous and inspiring effort.

Shippensburg certainly turned in their own gutsy and courageous performance late in the game. For all that had gone well for Bloomsburg in the second half, a lot went bad for Shippensburg. The Raiders blew a 28 point lead and lost all the momentum. But with the game on the line, The Red Raiders regrouped and executed a perfect game winning drive that culminated with the winning points going on the board with just five seconds left. Not too many teams can recover from blowing a 28 point lead like that. I was very impressed that they were able to put it behind them on focus on the task at hand.

Both teams will look back at the game with much pride and a few regrets. Bloomsburg had opportunities they missed, and some costly turnovers and Shippensburg made some uncharacteristic mistakes. Both teams will correct their mistakes and move on, hopefully to meet again in about a month. For my part, all I can say is that both teams played outstanding football and they left me feeling incredibly grateful to be part of it. Performances like the two I saw on Saturday are what drive me to get out to games every week of the season. You never know when are going to see something special, and the way these athletes performed and conducted themselves was special.

Extra points on this game…

I mentioned “doing what they do best,” check out these stats for the top offensive stars:

Zach Zulli
35 completions 60 attempts 496 yards 7 touchdowns 2 interceptions

Trevor Harmon
7 receptions 172 yards 3 touchdowns

Franklyn Quiteh
31 carries 268 yards 4 touchdowns 8.6 yards per carry

Ryan Dickerson
5 receptions 108 yards 1 touchdown

Shippensburg ran 97 plays to Bloomsburg’s 77

Field position in the second half was a major factor. The Huskies may have closed the gap a lot sooner, but Shippensburg used the wind and an outstanding punter to their advantage and pinned the Huskies deep in their own territory on multiple occasions.

As expected, turnovers were a huge factor but they were fairly even. Shippensburg lost two fumbles and threw two interceptions. Bloomsburg lost one fumble and threw four interceptions. Bloomsburg scored immediately after three turnovers in the second half, while Ship converted two Husky turnovers into points in the first half.

The “Red Out” for Shippensburg and the bus trips and travel crowds from Bloomsburg were great. More than 7,100 people turned out on a dark, dreary day.

Congratulations to Shippensburg for winning the PSAC Eastern Division.

Other headlines from around the PSAC

Rock upsets Cal for second straight year

California was able to get by Lock Haven and Gannon without star quarterback Peter Lalich, but Lalich’s third straight missed start was costly for the Vulcans. Cody Schroeder filled in admirably with 246 yards passing but completed only 50% of his passes, and the running game chipped in just 89 yards. California has struggled to run the ball against decent teams this year and with Lalich’s absence, the lack of running game finally caught up with them Nigel Barksdale stood out for the Rock, throwing for 283 yards and rushing for 119. Slippery Rock has now won three straight and they play their final two contests of the year at home, giving them an opportunity to close out the year with a nice winning streak. California has a very good OWP to help hold up their regional ranking, but two losses will hurt.

IUP dominates Clarion for third shutout of the season
Last week my blog may have appeared to say that this could be a tough game for IUP. I think my spell checker went haywire or something, because I know what I meant to say was that this would be total domination and humiliation by the Crimson Hawks. Alright fine, I blew my prediction. I looked bad, but IUP certainly didn’t. They held the Golden Eagles to less 100 yards rushing, under 50% passing and only 253 total yards. IUP actually accumulated more yards passing (272) than rushing (205). This team has been steadily improving all year and appears to be peaking at the right time. A victory next week, paired with a Mercyhurst win over California, would put them in the PSAC championship game.

West Chester routs Cheyney on Senior Day
Fifteen seniors enjoyed their final game at Farrell Stadium with a 59-14 drubbing of neighbor Cheyney. The Rams did most of their work on the ground with 292 yards, led by Rondell White’s 110. Senior standout defensive back John O’Donnell had a 70 yard interception return for touchdown and linebacker Ronnell Williams picked up his 100th tackle of the season.

ESU wins thrilling road shootout at LIU-Post
Was this a doubleheader? The numbers are ridiculous for a four quarter game. East Stroudsburg Redshirt freshman quarterback Matt Soltes and his offensive unit broke the school and conference records for total offense in a single game with 828 total yards (552 passing, 276 rushing). Let me write that again 828 yards. 828! Soltes also set a new conference record for individual total offense in a single game with 666 yards (535 passing, 131 rushing). Soltes’ record breaks the previous mark of 651 set by former LIU Post quarterback Erik Anderwkavich in 2010. Post may not be the best defensive team in the league right now, but I think ESU has served notice to the rest of the PSAC East – Look out in 2013. Dare I say that some Jimmy Terwilliger career records are also on notice?

The Pioneers mounted a great fourth quarter rally that came up just a little short. Trailing 45-13 after three quarters, the Pioneers ripped off three touchdowns, and converted three two point conversions in the final period to put quite a scare into the Warriors.

Mercyhurst wins third straight visit to Edinboro
Mercyhurst was held scoreless in the second and third quarters, but rallied for 10 points in the final period to defeat the Fighting Scots. It was the Lakers’ third straight victory at Sox Harrison Stadium. With the offense struggling for much of the game, Lakers’ coach Marty Schaetzle made a quarterback change to provide a spark. Backup Alec Swartz entered the game half way through the fourth quarter and promptly threw a 75 yard strike to senior Paris Brunner, setting up a first and goal. The Lakers scored on the next play to take the lead. Edinboro struggled with the rainy conditions and a tough Mercyhurst defense that gave up only 246 yards.

Kutztown offense too much for Millersville
The Golden Bears overwhelmed Millersville with 710 total yards of offense – normally a stat that would raise eyebrows, but ESU really stole their thunder this week. Kutztown ran for 366 yards, passed for 344 and held Millersville to just 218 total yards. Overall, it was a great team effort for the Bears. Two running backs ran for over 160 yards, two receivers had over 100 yards and Kevin Morton missed on only 5 of 26 attempts.

Gannon ends losing streak, Lock Haven’s continues
It wasn’t very impressive, but Gannon got the only result that mattered which was a win. They’ve put up good numbers in several games, but had been on the losing end since week one. They scored only 13 points but it would hold up as Lock Haven’s offense was held scoreless. The Bald Eagles’ only points came off an interception returned for touchdown. It was a shame that a defensive effort that gave up only 13 and scored 7 could not get any help from its struggling offense, but once again, The Bald Eagles were close enough to taste victory. Slippery Rock next week is probably not a winnable game, but Cheyney awaits in week 11 so there is one more good chance to put a check in the win column. Gannon has IUP next week but struggling LIU Post is the final contest, which could be another win the Golden Knights.

Final thoughts…

Regional Rankings should be out on Monday. Ship will undoubtedly be number 1, and WSSU should be No. 2. New Haven will likely move up to 3. Those are pretty predictable, but I’ll be curious to see where IUP and Bloomsburg end up, and how far California falls with its second loss.

The storms that are supposed to hit the east coast this week look like they mean business. Wherever you are reading this from, please stay safe, look out for yourselves and help your neighbors.

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  1. gtbaar's Avatar
    Great blog, Chuck. I was incredibly proud of the comeback by my team yesterday. It turned out to be a real battle. Now to wait and see where we will fall in the rankings.
  2. WarriorVoice's Avatar
    Keep up the great coverage of the PSAC!! BTW, the Pioneers gained almost 500 yards of offense against ESU, meaning both teams combined for over 1,300 yards of offense...I'm sure both defenses were gassed by the end of that game.

    Mercyhurst/Cal is just as big a game as Bloomsburg/Shippensburg yesterday, and even if Lalich returns for Cal next week, there's no guarantee he's @ 100%. Should be a heck of a contest...The only rankings that mean anything are in two weeks...Good luck to all!!
  3. Chuck Bitner's Avatar
    You're right, WarrorVoice. Its not a match up of two undefeated and ranked teams so it won't get as much attention, but it will determine who represents the West in the championship game. I'm selfishly hoping for a Mercyhurst victory. The two best units in the PSAC are Shippensburg's offense and IUP's defense. It would be a great thing for the PSAC for those two teams to meet for the championship.
  4. DIIBaby's Avatar
    Should IUP v SHIP take place, I gotta say IUP is built for late season, bad weather, playoff football. Combined Nine turnovers in ship v bloom game with perfect weather has me favoring IUP defense over a great, but vulnerable ship offense that can't really run the ball.