Fans at Seth Grove Stadium gazed at a Homecoming spectacle as tailback Mike Frenette and the No. 16 Shippensburg University football team overcame a mistake-prone first half to capture a 36-20 victory against LIU Post on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon.
Over 6,200 fans, aided by the Red Sea student section, provided an electric feel to Seth Grove Stadium as the homecoming crowd witnessed a slugfest through three quarters until the Raiders finally pulled away in the fourth.
Frenette, winner of the Offensive Most Valuable Player award, accounted for 130 all-purpose yards as the Raiders ground-and-pounded its way in the second half to secure its first victory in four tries against the Pioneers.
“We really got the running game going in the second half. The offensive line did a great job at opening up holes and it was a good collective effort to put up points,” tailback Mike Frenette said.
Coming in as the nations No. 1 offense averaging 564 yards per game, SU nearly kept pace with that mark, amassing 506 yards in Saturday’s win — however, numbers do not always tell the whole story. The Raiders, facing heavy pressure from LIU, were plagued by miscues and turnovers early on.
“We shot ourselves in the foot a few times,” SU head coach Mark Maciejewski said. “We can’t afford to not score in certain situations when we have the ball at the one-yard line.”
The Pioneers, coming in as the league leader in turnover differential, caused mayhem in the backfield and on special teams. LIU scored 14 points in the first half off of turnovers — a Zach Zulli fumble in the first quarter and a blocked punt in the second quarter.
Unfortunately, that was the only offense that LIU could muster.
SU’s defense, led by Corey Hunt and Defensive Most Valuable Player James Cooper, kept the Raiders in the game by disrupting any rhythm that LIU could create, and limited star quaterback, Steven Laurino, throughout.
“We really kept [Laurino] in check today”, linebacker Cody Fleming said.
That defensive effort in the first half translated into an offensive outburst in the second half.
Coming out of halftime, the Raiders turned to its run game and Frenette to get the ball rolling. Frenette steam-rolled defenders throughout the first drive leading to a critical score that put the Raiders up 24-14 early in the third quarter.
“We had to establish something and we thought we could establish the run in the second half and that’s what we did,” Maciejewski said.
It proved to only be the beginning of the offensive show as the Pioneers quickly showed why it has let up an average of 27 points per game.
LIU’s defense looked overmatched and fatigued as the Raider offense ran through, around, and over the Pioneers. Zulli took advantage of Frenette’s strong running throwing one of his two touchdown passes early in the fourth quarter.
“Mike helped us out running the ball tough. Mike opened up everything for the passing game,” Zulli said.
SU outscored LIU 19-6 in the second half — only allowing a Laurino rushing touchdown with 43 seconds left in the game. Laurino finished the day with two touchdowns, one in the air and one on the ground.
The Raiders earned a critical win before it heads into a PSAC east clash against Kutztown University. However, the players will be able to celebrate this win for tonight.
“We’re 6-0,” Maciejewski said. “It’s a great homecoming win and I’m excited for our kids.”