The last seven years of defeat were finally erased as the Shippensburg University football team overcame a 28-17 halftime deficit en route to a convincing 38-28 victory against Shepherd University in the 15th Annual Great Valley Classic from Seth Grove Stadium on Saturday.
The Raiders, who had not beaten Shepherd since 2004, rallied behind a strong defensive effort and the play of quarterback Zach Zulli to shock Shepherd with 21 unanswered points in the second half.
SU and its high-flying offense led in every statistical category, including total offense and rushing¬ — giving the Raiders a boost heading into the opening of PSAC play next week.
The seesaw first half teetered along as both teams struggled to gain any sort of momentum. Both teams played mistake-prone football with penalties stalling key drives and ruining any sort of rhythm for the offense.
Shepherd was able to capitalize the most on mistakes as it took advantage of a blocked punt late in the first half to build a 28-14 lead —¬ a lead that sent many fans from Student Association Field to the parking lot.
SU’s lackluster first half completely shifted when it took the field for the second half.
The Raiders stonewalled Shepherd’s run game in the second half, forcing the Rams to throw the football, a feat that plagued the Rams throughout the first half.
The offense, led by Zulli and Trevor Harman, turned a 28-17 deficit into a 31-28 lead within two minutes in the third quarter. It was a lead that would prove to be insurmountable for the Rams.
The skies opened up in the fourth quarter, putting a damper on Shepherd’s chances. The rain forced Shepherd to the ground, chewing up clock time and putting the lead out of reach. SU scored with three minutes left in the game to ice it.
Zulli, the catalyst of SU’s momentum swing in the second half, was a far cry from last year when he threw two interceptions and was constantly pressured.
In fact, Zulli shined under the spotlight, throwing for 392 yards and four touchdowns. Even more impressively, Zulli showed extreme poise in the pocket and did not throw an interception the entire game.PSAC PSAC
The Raiders open up PSAC play next weekend against Slippery Rock from Seth Grove Stadium at 1p.m.
For more photos, click here.