The IUP Crimson Hawks take flight in winning PSAC football title
IUP's De'Antwan Williams is tackled by a Shippensburg defender during the PSAC championship in Indiana, Pa.
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IUP's defense did more than take care of business with a suffocating performance in a 41-10 victory against Shippensburg in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference championship game Saturday at IUP.
"We took it personally," said linebacker Carl Fleming, the game's MVP, who was credited with 12 tackles and returned an interception 40 yards to complete the rout. "They were No. 1 on offense, and we were No. 1 on defense. We were going to see who would come out and perform the best. We came out ready, prepared, and we executed."
The Crimson Hawks killed what had been Shippensburg's high-octane offense with a relentless pass rush and physical presence wherever the ball was.
"Our defense stayed all over them from beginning to end," said IUP coach Curt Cignetti, whose father, Frank, was the coach the previous time IUP won the PSAC championship, in 1987. "Every guy has to do his job, and we got after them. I didn't feel going into the game they had played anybody like us."
Shippensburg (10-1), which ran away with the East Division, led Division II with 566 yards and nearly 53 points per game.
Shippensburg walked off the field at George Miller Stadium wondering what had happened to its vaunted attack.
"They played disciplined ball," said Shippensburg wide receiver Jacob Baskerville, who had five catches for 63 yards. "We were No. 1, and they didn't back down from us."
IUP is hopeful it will receive a home game next Saturday in the opening round of the NCAA Division II playoffs. Shippensburg is also assured of advancing to the playoffs.
IUP (10-1), which defeated Shippensburg for the 21st consecutive time, was confident because of its defense that allowed 239.9 yards and 11.3 points per game.
IUP's defense stated its case by holding Shippensburg to 271 yards and forced six punts.
Shippensburg quarterback Zach Zulli, who completed 67 percent of his passes for 3,845 yards and 49 touchdowns in the regular season, was 17 of 42 for 205 yards.
He was intercepted twice and sacked twice.
"I saw a big difference [in their quarterback] because of the pressure we put on him," Fleming said. "He wanted to do things on timing and we wouldn't let him."
IUP's offense was nearly flawless despite the loss of its star running back, Harvie Tuck, who appeared in only one play because of an ankle injury.
De'Antwan Williams, who transferred from Rutgers this season, filled in with 129 yards rushing on 30 carries, including a 59-yard score.
Montay Green added 92 yards on 13 carries, and wideout Terrill Barnes had 53 yards on two end-arounds as Cignetti opened up the playbook.
Barnes also had seven catches for 124 yards and touchdowns of 11, 15 and 48 yards.
The catalyst for IUP's offense was quarterback Mike Box, who completed 11 of 16 passes for 178 yards and three touchdowns.
"We thought we had a chance to get deep on them," Cignetti.
"And we did."
First Published November 11, 2012 12:00 am