Zach Zulli rockets a pass to Alex Kuljian for an early score. There is no celebration, no over-eccentric dance, just a pat on the helmet and a run back to the sidelines.
Scoring has become all too common for the Raider offense.
Cliché as it may sound, the Raider offense is just going through the motions — amassing points at a frenzied pace while stomping over its competition.
Through the first four games of the season, the Raiders have amassed 217 points — a mind boggling 54 per game en route to a 4-0 start. With the pace SU is setting, it will be hard-pressed to match the point total for the rest of the year. However this team is built to score, and to score often. But three years ago, this team was struggling to find an offensive identity.
After the retirement of William “Rocky” Rees in 2010, Coach Mark Maciejewski and incoming offensive coordinator, Mike Yurcich planned an overhaul that would build the Raider team for success.
Yurcich scrapped the Wing-T offense — a slow and methodical ground attack based on option-reads and a power running game, and implemented an attack that has become highly regarded in today’s college game — the spread.
The change could not have come a season too soon.
Zulli, a graduate of Perkiomen Valley High School in Graterford, Pa., had been the captain of the spread offense throughout his time under Head Coach Scott Reed. The Vikings, under Zulli and Reed, executed the spread offense to perfection and captured a Pioneer Athletic Conference title in 2008, the school’s first since 1999.
The offense, albeit somewhat different, played into Zulli’s strengths. After a 2011 campaign in which the Raiders averaged 37 points per game, the pieces were there to build on for a special season.
The Raiders went through some minor tweaks to its offense during the summer — adding new plays and formations to showcase their speed on the perimeter.
So far, that speed has crushed opponents. The Raiders, running a no-huddle, up-tempo offense, have been on cruise control since the second half of their first game against Shepherd University. SU has averaged 588 yards per game, has scored 30 touchdowns and is converting on 77 percent of its red zone chances.
What is impressive is the way the Raiders attack. Defenses have had a hard time scheming against this offensive attack because it can devastate in a multitude of ways and formations.
Defenses cannot focus solely on Zulli because the Raiders have a solid running game behind tailback Mike Frenette — who has been a battering ram in the backfield. The senior has rushed for 403 yards thus far, with 190 coming in the thrashing of Millersville on Saturday.
In contrast, defenses that focus on the run game have to counteract Zulli’s arm. The junior has passed for 1,463 yards, thrown for 17 touchdowns and has only thrown two interceptions. He has spread the ball around to leading receivers Trevor Harman and Jacob Baskerville, while also proving
he can be quick on his feet — rushing for 93 yards in four games.
“We’re in the groove right now. We are gelling out on the field, practicing hard and focusing on making this a team effort,” Zulli said.
The groove that this team is in has raised questions as to when this team will become nationally ranked. With contests against Lock Haven University and LIU Post (formerly CW Post)in the next two weeks, the Raiders are looking to fine-tune its offense in preparation for the gauntlet in the middle of October — with away games against Kutztown University, West Chester University, and a home contest with Bloomsburg University.
That stretch of games will prove what type of team this Raider bunch is, but until then, sit back and watch this team go to work.
The Raiders head to Lock Haven on Saturday to face an LHU squad that has lost 46 in a row. With one more loss LHU will hold the NCAA record for most consecutive losses by a team.
SU’s homecoming game is scheduled the next weekend against LIU Post.