The Shippensburg University football team could not overcome a flat first-half performance in what amounted to a 48-28 defeat at the hands of Clarion University in the Red Raiders' home opener on Saturday afternoon at Seth Grove Stadium.
It was the first time Clarion (1-0, 1-0 Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference) had defeated the Red Raiders (0-1, 0-1 PSAC) on their own turf since 1996.
“Listen, it was just a disaster in the first half,” Shippensburg coach Mark Maciejewski said. “There was nothing there at all in the first 30 minutes that suggested that we practiced and prepared at all for this game.”
The Red Raiders were baffled by everything Clarion threw at them in the first half, falling behind 34-0 by halftime.
The Golden Eagles pounded SU on the ground, as Ross Greece and Mylique McGriff punched in one-yard scores in the first quarter to take a 13-0 lead.
In what felt like a matter of minutes, Clarion added a passing score, a rushing score and an interception returned for a touchdown to extend the lead to 34-0.
“Guys just weren’t doing what they were supposed to do,” Maciejewski said. “There was no emotion or passion on either side of the ball. There is enough fault or blame to go around for everybody for the breakdowns today.”
The Red Raiders showed signs of life on both sides of the ball after halftime. Touchdowns from redshirt-freshman Bill Williams and redshirt-junior Winston Eubanks in a span of 1:08 of game time narrowed the deficit to 34-14.
Clarion answered with a nine-play, 81-yard touchdown drive of its own to push the lead back to 21.
Two early fourth quarter scores by Williams and redshirt-sophomore David Balint III brought SU within 13 points, 41-28. Once again, the Golden Eagles stifled the comeback effort with a long scoring drive of their own to put the Red Raiders away for good.
Shippensburg did outscore Clarion 28-14 in the second half, but the first-half collapse was too drastic to overcome.
“The second half was night-and-day compared to the first half,” Maciejewski said.
Redshirt-sophomore quarterback Brycen Mussina salvaged his statline with a strong second-half performance. The reigning PSAC East Freshman of the Year completed 24 of 39 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns. He threw an interception and was sacked four times.
“[Mussina] started making the right decisions, reading what he was supposed to do and getting the ball out of his hands quickly,” Maciejewski said. “There was definitely a noticeable difference there.”
Eubanks was effective on the perimeter, reeling in seven catches for 107 yards and a touchdown. It was his 10th career 100-yard receiving effort.
The Raiders defensive unit struggled all afternoon, particularly at stopping Clarion’s run game. The Golden Eagles racked up a whopping 341 rushing yards on 48 carries behind an offensive line that decimated the Red Raiders' front seven.
The loss snapped a streak of five consecutive wins in season openers for the Red Raiders.
With plenty of work to do at practice this week, Shippensburg’s next test comes Saturday on the road at Slippery Rock University’s Milhalik-Thompson Stadium.