Chuck Bitner

Ship travels to IUP for the PSAC Championship Game

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This game deserves its own blog, so I will preview the rest of the PSAC schedule in a separate entry to be published soon after this one.

PSAC Championship Game

George P. Miller Stadium, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Saturday, November 10, 2:05

This game will broadcast live on PCN

PSAC East Champion Shippensburg (10-0, 7-0) at PSAC West Champion IUP (9-1, 6-1)

Well here it is. The best from the East v. the best from the West for the PSAC Championship. I’m not going to call it by its adopted name – The State Game. Frankly, I don’t like the State Game moniker because it is outdated. It implies that we play for state championships and that is not what this is. It’s not high school. In college football we play for conference championships and national championships. The PSAC is a collegiate conference. Leave state championships to the PIAA.

Alright, enough of that mini rant. Call it whatever you want, because it’s going to be awesome. Seriously, what more can we ask for in a championship game? IUP has had one of the top defenses all year, and Shippensburg’s elite offense has been shredding the school record books on a weekly basis.

It might seem like I’m exaggerating, but I’m really not. Shippensburg’s Sports Information team has been busy every weekend keeping track of all the latest records that have been broken. Zach Zulli now owns nearly every single game, season and career passing mark at Ship and he has started only 21 games. Zulli has thrown for 3,845 yards in 10 games this year and has thrown a staggering 49 touchdown passes and just 5 interceptions. Considering he has the most pass attempts in the PSAC (50 more than the next closest) I think five interceptions may be his most impressive stat.

Like any successful quarterback, Zulli hardly does it alone. He has a host of playmakers in the backfield and at the wide receiver positions. Jacob Baskerville is the only player in the PSAC to have gone over 1,000 yards receiving so far. However, teammate Trevor Harmon is just 25 yards away from joining him. Bryan Barley as the third receiver has numbers that rival most teams’ number 1 man (32 catches, 602 yards, 7 touchdowns). Mike Frennette has 46 receptions out of the backfield and he also has 724 yards rushing. So basically, if you threw in Franklyn Quiteh, you would have the All-PSAC East skill players right here.

Those are the individuals, but what do they add up to? How about 566 yards (411 passing, 155 rushing) and 52 points per game. Alright. What do you to say about that, IUP?

Well, as it turns out IUP may have a few answers. Offense dominates headlines, be defense dominates games. So while Shippensburg has been getting all the attention and all the fanfare with their offensive numbers, IUP has more quietly demolished most of their opposition with a defense that has been nearly as impressive as Ship’s offense. The number one defense in the nation gives up only 239 total yards per game. They give up only 69 yards on the ground and have yielded just six rushing touchdowns.

Passing teams have a much better shot against their defensive front, but the going is still pretty tough. The Crimson Hawks give up about 170 pass yards per game, and have allowed only 9 touchdowns. They’ve got 28 sacks as well. Carl Thornton is the most dominant defensive lineman in the PSAC and probably one the best in country. He is equally effective in run defense and pass rush and leads the team with seven sacks.

The linebackers are ball hawkers as Alex Berdhahl and Carl Flemming are first and second on the team in tackles. The secondary, led by Johnny Franco (6 INTs) and Jerrell McFadden (42 tackles) is among the best in the nation.

It always seems that there isn’t as much to say about a defense as there is to say about an offense. But I have no doubts that if there is a defense out that that can end Ship’s winning streak, it is this one. The question may be, can IUP’s offense help out by playing “keep away” and scoring enough points with their rushing attack?

I think they have a good chance. A lot may depend on how healthy Harvie Tuck is. The PSAC’s second leading rusher (1,548 yards) was injured last week at Gannon. IUP will definitely need a healthy Tuck to pull off a victory. De’Antwann Williams and Montay Green are very capable, but Tuck is the workhorse. Tuck is listed as the starter in this week’s game notes, for what that’s worth.

The Crimson Hawks will go up against a good defensive front that has been successful at stopping the run. If Thornton is the best DT in the PSAC, then Ship’s Mark Kahlil Smith is number two. Jake Metz at end is also a force. However, IUP’s offense is similar to Bloomsburg’s and the Huskies ran for 351 yards against the Red Raiders. The Crimson Hawks will have to be able to run the ball nearly as successfully, because they don’t have enough play making ability with the passing game. Mike Box has done a very solid job since assuming the starting role but the Hawks as still basically a “pass as needed” offense.

So I’ve written several paragraphs and now I’m just stalling. IUP’s backbone is its defense, Ship’s is its offense. The unit that is more successful will win. I’m a big believer that defense wins championships, and sometime soon, Ship is going to run into a defense that can stand up to them. It might be this Saturday. But I have a feeling Ship’s winning streak will continue for at least another week. Overall, they are very healthy for a team that has played 10 games and they have not lost one bit of momentum this season. I think their roll will continue into the post season.

Shippensburg 38 IUP 34

Here are a few offense –defense comparisons to consider, with conference rankings in parentheses.

Ship Scoring offense: 52.7 ppg (first)
IUP Scoring defense: 11.3 ppg (first)

Ship total offense: 566 ypg (first)
IUP total defense: 239 ypg (first)

Ship passing offense: 411 ypg (first)
IUP passing defense: 170 ypg (third)

Ship rushing offense: 155 ypg (tenth)
IUP rushing defense: 69 ypg (first)

Ship first downs: 28 per game (first)
IUP first downs allowed: 13 per game (first)

Ship sacks allowed: 10 (third)
IUP sacks: 28 (second)

Ship INTs thrown: 7 (fourth)
IUP INTs: 15 (second)

Ship plays per game: 80 (first)
IUP plays allowed per game: 57 (first)

Ship games with more than 35 points scored: 10
IUP games with more than 35 points allowed: 0

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Updated 11-08-2012 at 09:40 AM by Chuck Bitner

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  1. DIIBaby's Avatar
    Great analysis, as always! Only thing I would add is a comment on the coaching matchups and perhaps give the edge to IUP with Cigs national championship ring and Torts confounding defensive schemes. Also, special teams often play a huge roll in games like this, and I think again, IUP might have a slight advantage. Whether its enough to offset the offensive talent SHIPPENSBURG brings is something we all are looking forward to on Saturday. Thanks again for your coverage this year.
  2. shiplb54's Avatar
    Great thoughts Chuck, and you too DIIBaby. The last stat is awesome! Ship scored 35 or more in every game this year, and IUP has never given up more than that, wow. This is going to be great.
  3. Chuck Bitner's Avatar
    I used 35 as a threshold just because it was very close to the season high / low for each team. Gannon scored 35 against IUP, Cal scored 26. Every other opponent was under 16. Ship's "worst" output of the year was 36 against Post, followed by 38 against Shepherd. In the other 8 games they went over 42, including five games over 50.