Week 1 of the 2013 season is one that the Shippensburg University football team would like to forget, dropping a gut- wrenching battle 33–0 to Shepherd University.
The Raiders took the field on Saturday afternoon for the 16th annual Great Valley Classic. SU went into Ram Stadium with high hopes of coming out with its first win of the season.
Unfortunately for the Raiders, the game plan did not go as expected.
Junior wide receiver Trevor Harman fumbled the ball on a double end around toss on the first play from scrimmage, which set the tone for the offensive woes ahead. Turnovers had the biggest impact for the Raiders’ offense.
“We turned the ball over six times today. You are not going to beat Shepherd turning the ball over six times,” head coach Mark Maciejewski said.
Senior quarterback Zach Zulli struggled all game. He was under pressure nearly every time he rolled out of the pocket and could not seem to find his receivers. Zulli went 13-for-27 with 140 yards and two interceptions. His longest was to Harman when they hooked up for a 56-yard completion in the second quarter.
Despite the lack of offense from the Raiders, the defense held it’s own. SU’s secondary held the Rams to just 144 passing yards.
The Raiders’ defense seemed to get tired in the latter portion of the game. The Rams’ offense was able to possess the ball for 42 minutes, 37 seconds compared to SU’s 17 minutes, 23 seconds. Shepherd was also a perfect 5-for-5 when it reached the red zone.
Even though the game did not go as planned, Maciejewski stayed optimistic.
“I’m proud of our guys, we fought and we fought and our defense played quite well today, they were on the field quite a bit…it’s the first game and there is a lot of new faces out there on the field. We will be better next week,” Maciejewski said.
The Raiders take on another tough opponent in Slippery Rock University next Saturday. They have a well-rounded senior quarterback in Nigel Barksdale.
Barksdale passed for a school-record six touchdowns and 465 yards in Saturday’s 51–36 win over Northwood University.
Barksdale can also run the ball very well for SRU. He rushed for seven touchdowns last year in his junior campaign. Barksdale will be out for revenge come Saturday’s game.
Although Slippery Rock is a tough opponent Zulli had success against the Rock last season.
He lit up SRU for 348 yards passing and four TDs. Even though the Raiders won last season and Zulli posted big numbers does not mean the game is a sure win. These are two different teams this year.
Slippery Rock is going to be the Raiders first big challenge in the 2013 season. SU is going to have to forget about the tough loss to Shepherd quickly and regain focus for what is going to be a tough battle in it’s first PSAC game on Saturday. SU will travel to SRU on Sept. 14. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.