Nothing less than a dominant win would be satisfactory for the Shippensburg University football team after dropping its last four contests in disappointing fashion. That dominant win came on Saturday as the Red Raiders soundly defeated Millersville University away from home, 37–0.
The team had not experienced a win since a last-gasp victory over Slippery Rock University in Week 2. The win against MU was also the squad’s first in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) after losing to Bloomsburg and West Chester universities in two consecutive weeks, both tightly-contested matchups.
The game was not without its hiccups, however, as the team gave up five turnovers. That did not hurt the Red Raiders, since the defense played its best game of the season and limited the Marauders to fewer than three yards per play in the shutout.
The run game racked up 258 yards and three touchdowns on its way to a season-high in yardage as a seemingly proficient rushing attack was able to live up to its potential for the first time this season. Redshirt-senior running back Marcus Lominy led the way with 91 yards on the ground — a season-high for the back. Senior quarterback Chase Yocum also found a good bit of success carrying the ball, earning 71 yards on just five carries, plus a touchdown.
After his big game, Yocum now sits eighth all-time in the PSAC in career rushing yards for a quarterback. He is also just 21 yards away from tying former starter Ryan Zapoticky’s school record of 1,249 rushing yards.
Redshirt-freshman quarterback Brycen Mussina had a mixed day, throwing for 235 yards on 16 completions with two touchdowns, but also two interceptions. His picks came on the first two drives for the Red Raiders, but he made sure to be more careful with the ball the rest of the way and immediately improved on the offense’s third drive to grab the first points of the game.
Mussina found redshirt-junior tight end Shea O’Donnell in the end zone from 10 yards out about midway through the first quarter. That was all of the offense the Red Raiders could muster for the first quarter and for the majority of the second. It was not until midway through the second that the offense found its rhythm again.
The running attack started to get into a groove as redshirt-junior fullback Luke Durkin had a four-yard scoring run. The first field goal of the season for freshman kicker David Shank separated Durkin’s touchdown from Yocum’s seven-yard run less than a minute from halftime. Yocum’s scoring drive started after a 23-yard punt return from redshirt-junior receiver Josh Gontarek put the ball at MU’s 40-yard line. After a penalty pushed the offense back a few yards, Mussina found Gontarek for a 40-yard gain before Yocum’s short touchdown run.
The Marauders switched between almost every quarterback on its roster in an attempt to get something going on offense, but it did not seem to matter who was in the game, as the Red Raider defense was constantly bearing down on each quarterback. Collin Shank was the most effective passer for MU, but he only gained 47 yards on 7–22 passing. The run game was no better, totaling 91 net yards. Backup quarterback Tony Staffieri was the leading rusher, grabbing 47 yards on nine carries.
SU had a season-high seven sacks with several players getting in on the action. Redshirt-senior defensive end Richard Nase grabbed 1 1/2 sacks to go with 2 1/2 tackles-for-loss. Nase is now only five sacks and 7 1/2 TFLs away from tying Jake Metz’s school records in both categories. Redshirt-senior defensive lineman Josh Lister added to his season total with two more sacks on the afternoon, making it five in seven games.
Yocum’s touchdown made it 23–0 for the Red Raiders going into halftime and they came out, guns blazing for the second half. The offense got the ball to start the half and charged down the field, only for Lominy to fumble at the MU 39. After the defense did its job and gave the ball right back to its offense, redshirt-sophomore running back Raleigh Sirb also fumbled and gave the ball to the Marauders in prime position for possibly their first score of the game.
Starting at SU’s 32-yard line, the Marauders had probably their best opportunity of the afternoon up to that point. After going nowhere on the first three downs, the offense went for it on fourth down, but redshirt-sophomore defensive lineman Tim Bradley got to Staffieri for a seven-yard sack to give possession back to the Red Raiders.
The next drive for SU was very similar to that of MU. The Red Raiders moved downfield after Mussina completed a 28-yard pass to redshirt-sophomore wide receiver Charles Headen III to put the ball in Marauders’ territory. The drive stalled after that, however, as Mussina was pressured on fourth down and threw an incomplete pass to end the drive.
MU had its best drive of the day on the ensuing possession, as three different quarterbacks took snaps. Evan Merrill had a 29-yard completion to receiver/kicker Joey Farley to bring the ball down to the SU 38. A few rushes and a roughing the passer penalty later, the Marauders found themselves at the one-yard line. They shot themselves in the foot, however, on a false start and could not get into the end zone, once again going for it on fourth down, only to be stopped short.
The Red Raiders took control again and made sure to capitalize on their good fortunes. Yocum had two big runs of 45 and 18 yards after starting the drive at his own five-yard line. Mussina came back into the game to find redshirt-freshman back Sean Judge out of the backfield for a 24-yard score to increase the advantage to 30–0 with barely any time remaining in the third.
At this point, it felt safe enough for coach Mark “Mac” Maciejewski to pull some of his starters on offense and defense. Mussina’s day was done and Yocum took the majority of the snaps at quarterback for the remainder of the day. The nail in the coffin for MU came when the fourth quarterback of the day, Justis Jacobs, threw an interception to redshirt-junior cornerback Dennis Robinson with less than six minutes left in the game.
The Red Raiders capitalized on the only turnover forced by their defense all game. Sirb took over on offense, grabbing large chunks of 12 and 10 yards on his way to the end zone for the final score line of 37–0.
The win helped improve the Red Raiders to 3–4 on the season and 1–2 in the PSAC. The Marauders were held to an impressive 154 yards, while SU had 493 yards of total offense. With not many games remaining on the schedule, the odds of reaching the playoffs at this point are very slim, but the team will likely continue fighting until the end. Every game is crucial to SU’s survival, so this win will hopefully jumpstart a run. The team will look to use this win as momentum going into homecoming next weekend as Kutztown University comes to Seth Grove Stadium. Kickoff is at 1 p.m.