It hasn't exactly been a warm and fuzzy welcome into the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference for the Seton Hill University football program.
The Griffins, who finished 0-11 in their final season in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference last year, are competing in the PSAC West for the first time and after just two conference matchups are fully aware what they are in for.
"It's much faster," said quarterback Nick Halfhill, a graduate of Mount Pleasant High School. "There's more of a competition, the style I like.
"It's going to be a little bit of a change, but we'll be all right. It's going to take a little bit of time but once we do, once we get the ball rolling we'll be a tough team to stop."
Seton Hill opened the season with a disappointing, 37-29 loss to former WVIAC foe Fairmont State. Starting quarterback Andrew Jackson went down with a knee injury in the contest but Halfhill stepped in for his first collegiate snaps and rallied the Griffins from a 37-10 deficit in the third quarter and nearly pulled off the comeback.
The Griffins got a loud PSAC hello in Game 2.
Playing in their home opener under first-year coach Isaac Collins, the Griffins took on East Stroudsburg in a PSAC cross-over game and were slammed by the Warriors, 70-7. It was their worst loss since a 72-0 setback in 2005 in their first year of having a football program.
Seton Hill trailed 42-0 at halftime and 63-0 in the fourth quarter before Halfhill, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound redshirt sophomore, connected with wide receiver Norman Darden for a 71-yard touchdown pass to spoil the shutout.
It didn't get much easier Saturday when the Griffins took on then No. 8-ranked IUP to open their PSAC West schedule in a homecoming contest at Offutt Field in Greensburg.
"As they say out of the pot and into the frying pan," Collins said.
Seton Hill battled the Crimson Hawks in the first half, trailing only 2-0 to start the third quarter. But IUP (3-0, 1-0) woke up in the second half, scoring 21 points en route to a 26-0 victory, the Crimson Hawks' second consecutive shutout.
The Griffins forced five IUP turnovers to keep the contest close, but have now been outscored, 96-7, after two PSAC contests.
"IUP is obviously a phenomenal football team," Collins said. "Coach [Curt] Cignetti has done a great job over there building a roster that's going to contend for the PSAC title and make a deep playoff run. Certainly when I look at those guys, that's what we're building toward."
And one of those building blocks appears to be Halfhill.
Jackson threw for 2,131 yards last season and was ready to lead the Griffins into the PSAC, but the senior from Bloomfield Hills, Mich., sustained a knee injury in the first game that opened the door for Halfhill.
"It's kind of a day-to-day deal, it's just a matter of how he's feeling," Collins said of Jackson. "We fitted him for a new brace. He threw the ball around a little bit but until I'm confident that he can keep himself out of harm's way, we're going to keep him on the sidelines."
Unlike Jackson, who is more of a pocket-style quarterback capable of picking a secondary apart, Halfhill loves to think on his feet and is not afraid to tuck the ball and head up field.
"I enjoy running the ball," he said. "I like inflicting damage on people.
"When I first started college ball I thought I was just strictly a runner. I wasn't very good at reading defenses. I came from a wing-T offense. Making the transition into a passing offense was tough. I'm getting a lot better passing."
For the season, Halfhill has completed 52 of 94 passes for 539 yards with five touchdowns and five interceptions. He also has registered an astounding 43 carries, some by design, some out of necessity, for 18 yards.
"Nick is a blue-collar kid, which is evident in some of his runs," Collins said. "We would prefer that since he's the No. 2 [quarterback] we don't want to get to our No. 3. He has a difficult time shying away from contact. You like that toughness in him. He's your typical Western Pennsylvania guy.
"We're trying to haul him in a little bit, let him know that it's all right to run out of bounds, it's all right to get down on a slide. You don't have to try to truck linebackers and DBs every chance you get. That's the type of kid he is and we're excited about that."
The Griffins, who run a multiple spread offense and rely on the no-huddle a lot, have been having difficulty running the ball. After three games, Seton Hill has 64 yards rushing on 90 carries, an average of 21.3 yards per game on the ground and 0.7 yards per carry.
Not exactly the type of numbers a quarterback wants to see.
"It puts some pressure on me, but I've been known to make plays on my feet," Halfhill said. "It's nothing big. I just have to study defenses more.
"We expected to do a lot better, we just have to learn to execute our offense better. Once we do that, we'll be all right. We're just really young."
The Griffins and Halfhill continue their search for their first victory since Oct. 29, 2011, when they travel to Sox Harrison Stadium in Erie to take on Edinboro (1-2, 0-1). Kickoff Saturday is noon.
"Anytime you throw a young guy into this type of situation one of two things can happen," Collins said. "They learn immensely and they grow and it's a case where they're a better player for it the following year, or it's a disaster and they lose confidence.
"We're hoping that Nick understands that it's a tough break right now and he has some young receivers but they're going to get older, they're going to get better. We need him just to continue to improve."
Rick Davis: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-3789.