The Shippensburg University football team struggled on offense all day Saturday, but its defense did more than enough to propel the Raiders to a 13-7 win on Saturday afternoon at home over Millersville University.
The defense held Millersville to just 157 total yards, and the unit was especially strong on third down, allowing Millersville to convert just three times on 21 attempts.
The game started with a pair of punts from each side before Millersville recovered a fumble from redshirt sophomore Tanner Hess, giving them the ball in plus territory. However, the Marauders could not capitalize, with Millersville quarterback Rob Footman Jr. throwing an interception to sophomore DJ Jackson. The game remained scoreless through the end of the first quarter.
The Marauders failed to convert another scoring opportunity early in the second quarter, missing a 24-yard field goal. A few more punts followed before Hess gave the SU offense some life by picking up a 50-yard run to put Shippensburg inside the 20-yard line. The offense stalled out from there, but a 25-yard field goal from junior Jaxson Montross gave the Raiders a 3-0 lead.
Millersville’s next possession saw Shippensburg graduate linebacker Evan Townsend-Henry strip-sack Millersville’s backup QB Ryan Zeltt, with junior Javon Cruz recovering the fumble to put the Raiders back in scoring position. Hess then punched it in from 8 yards out to put the Raiders up 10-0, which remained the score at halftime.
Along with the fumble recovery, Cruz led the defense in tackles for the game with 10, a new single-game high for him. Speaking on his performance, he said, “We just keep working at practice, keep believing in the coaches, keep believing in yourself, because people on the team have confidence in you, so you want to prove them right.”
The first seven drives of the second half resulted in punts before Shippensburg freshman quarterback Sam Stoner completed an 18-yard pass to sophomore Alex Rufe to put Shippensburg in the redzone. They converted this into another Montross field goal, this time from 36 yards out, to make it 13-0 through three quarters.
Millersville got some momentum going late, finishing an 18-play drive with a touchdown to make it 13-7. A three-and-out from the Raiders followed, giving Millersville the ball back with 2:26 to go, but they could not finish the comeback. Zeltt’s fourth-down pass was broken up by Jackson to give the Raiders the ball, and they kneeled it out from there.
Speaking on his defense’s performance, head coach Mark Maciejewski said, “They played well together today … they played hard for each other, and that was a big emphasis all this week. You could see the energy they put on the field.” He also discussed the finish and overall competitiveness of the game, saying it was “60 minutes of just nail biting … our defense had confidence, they went back out on the field and said we’re gonna do what we need to win, to win this game, and they did.”
Stoner had a rough game overall, completing just eight of 23 passes for 50 yards. Hess ran for 111 yards on 23 carries, his third game this season with at least 100 yards. Rufe led the receivers with three catches for 29 yards.
Both teams struggled to move the ball for the whole game, with Shippensburg picking up 165 total yards versus just 157 for Millersville. Each team had three turnovers, and the schools combined for 22 punts, and went a combined four for 38 on third downs.
The Raiders have a tough matchup next week, hitting the road to face East Stroudsburg, which is 7-1 on the season. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. Saturday.
Speaking on what needs to be improved, Maciejewski said, “We gotta score points, get everybody on the same page to get it done. We’re down to a three-game season, and that’s what we’re working at.”