Mike Goode spiked the ball in celebration then sprinted to the sideline and jumped into a jubilant head coach Mark Maciejeski’s arms.
The defensive back not only ripped the ball from star Bloomsburg University running back Franklyn Quiteh in what was deemed the play of the game, but also ripped the hearts of Husky fans that filled Seth Grove Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
It was a play that summed up the Shippensburg University football team’s 58-20 domination — and the lethargic performance that BU displayed.
“This game is a game of plays sometimes,” BU head coach Danny Hale said. “We made a couple of bad ones that were costly.”
Quiteh’s fumble proved to be the most costly of them all.
Down 23-14 midway through the third quarter, the Huskies methodically drove down the field behind Quiteh, who ran for 199 yards in the contest. After Cody Fleming’s personal foul penalty on third down continued BU’s drive, Quiteh was called upon to continue his ground-and-pound performance.
It was too bad SU’s defense knew exactly what was coming.
The Raiders stuffed Quiteh behind the line and held him up long enough for Goode to pry the ball out of his hands. The ball came out and the stadium erupted.
“We needed to hold on to the football,” Hale said.
“It was the turning point of the game,” Maciejewski said. “That came at the right time and that’s what put momentum back on our side.”
It was, indeed, the turning point.
After a back-and-forth first half that saw quarterback Zach Zulli looking like he did last week against Indiana University of Pennsylvania, the Raiders finally started to click in the second half, tearing up the scoreboard with 45 unanswered points despite BU’s touchdown at the end of regulation — and 35 of those points came after the Quiteh fumble.
Even with SU’s ineffectiveness and inability to score in the red zone in the first half, SU’s players and coaches were optimistic heading into what could have been their final 30 minutes of the year.
“Coach we will not lose this game,” Maciejewski recounted what he was told in the locker room. “I went up to every senior and said that we only have 30 minutes to extend your legacy, and that’s what they did.”
The Raiders played arguably their best 30 minutes all season during the second half. Despite letting Quiteh gain 199 yards on the day, SU grounded tailback Eddie Mateo and forced the Huskies into third-and-longs.
“We tackled better today,” Goode said. “The scheme was similar [to last week], but we just executed.”
That execution allowed SU’s secondary to play the receivers tighter than usual, which gave Kelly fits when he was forced to throw on obvious passing downs. He was forced into throwing three interceptions on the day and was out of sync with his receivers all day. His 3–14 for 23 yards performance caught Hale off guard especially after a strong week in practice.
“He had an unbelievable Thursday practice where he maybe only had two incompletions,” Hale said. “He was just off today.”
The other quarterback on the field was not off. Zulli torched the Husky secondary for 479 yards and three touchdowns on 26–35 passing — almost 300 of those yards came after that second half gut-check.
“I was just hitting a lot of check downs,” Zulli said. “They weren’t covering the short routes at all and it opened up our pass game completely.”
The check downs allowed Zulli to connect on deep strikes in the second half to Bryan Barley (48 yards) and Jacob Baskerville (44 yards) for scores. Barley and Baskerville combined for over 240 yards receiving on the day while Trevor Harman hauled in six receptions for another 117 yards.
Tailbacks Mike Frenette and Kevin Herod benefited from SU’s passing game, as Frenette rushed for 74 yards on 13 carries and one touchdown while Herod became the beneficiary of some trickery, throwing a 28-yard strike to Barley on a half-back pass to put the Raiders up 44–14 in the fourth quarter.
With his three touchdown passes today, Zulli broke the single-season record in the PSAC for most touchdown passes.
The Raiders will head off to Winston-Salem University next Saturday to play host to the undefeated Rams. WSU is coming off a victory over Elizabeth City State University in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association Championship game last week.
For more photos from the game click here