IUP avenges two losses to Cal (Pa.) last season with 26-10 victory in Coal Bowl
Just a win? Hardly. This was IUP-Cal (Pa.).
Lenny Williams passed for 268 yards and three touchdowns and added 29 yards rushing Saturday to lead No. 4 IUP to a 26-10 victory over No. 16 Cal in the ninth annual Coal Bowl at IUP's Miller Stadium.
In as intense a rivalry as there might be in NCAA Division II, Williams, a redshirt junior from Sto-Rox and a transfer from Temple who earned the latest Coal Bowl MVP, attempted to treat the outcome like any other game.
“There's a lot of season,” he said. “We didn't come out here this season just to beat Cal. It's a good win, don't get me wrong. I'm not taking anything away from the win. But it's just a win.”
It was a victory that kept IUP and first-year coach Paul Tortorella unbeaten through six games. And while the Crimson Hawks were doing enough to succeed, it was a frustrating day for the Cal offense.
The defense, too.
“The score could have been a lot worse than it was, but they kept fighting,” IUP coach Paul Tortorella said of Cal. “They could have quit. On that last drive (IUP held the ball deep in Cal territory), if they would have quit, we would have put it in. I give them credit for not packing it in.”
IUP (6-0, 3-0 PSAC West), which plays next weekend at No. 12 Slippery Rock, outgained Cal in total yards, 445-283. The Vulcans failed on multiple scoring chances in the first half and trailed the Crimson Hawks by two at the break.
“It didn't seem like we ever got into a rhythm,” Cal coach Gary Dunn said after the Vulcans lost consecutive games for the first time since 2015.
Williams threw touchdown passes of 16 yards to Malik Anderson in the first quarter and 7 yards to Kolbe Hughes and 37 yards to Swahneek Brown in the third quarter.
“It's a good feeling,” Williams said. “We lost to them two times last year. It's good to get that first win.”
Tortorella, a longtime IUP assistant, perhaps said it best.
“Going into the game, we talked about if you want to be the champion, you have to knock off the champion,” he said. “Until you do that, you don't have any rights to anything. To get to where we want to go, we had to beat them.”
Cal defeated IUP twice last season, including a 44-23 victory in the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs. The Vulcans (4-2, 1-2) was coming off a grueling 47-44 overtime loss at Slippery Rock.
“I don't have any doubt in my team,” Dunn said. “They're all competitive kids. We had a great week in practice.”
IUP took a 12-0 lead in the first quarter on Williams' 16-yard scoring pass to Anderson and Duane Brown's 1-yard run. Both extra points were blocked.
Cal cut the margin to 12-7 after Lamont McPhatter recovered an IUP fumble at the Crimson Hawks' 10, setting up Michael Keir's 11-yard touchdown pass to Tom Greene, who had 10 catches for 109 yards.
Cal got withing 12-10 when Will Brazill kicked a 26-yard field goal with 11 seconds left in the first half. The Vulcans marched 74 yards to the 9 before facing fourth down.
“We let them go into halftime in the game thinking they could still win because of our not executing, basically,” Tortorella said. “The thing that was great about it was we pushed it all aside. We came out and wanted to play a great second half half. Our players and coaches did a great job with that.”
Cal took first possession in the second half, but its offense sputtered as it did much of the day under heavy pressure from IUP's defensive front.
When IUP took over after a punt, the Crimson Hawks drove 71 yards and added to their lead on Williams' 7-yard scoring pass to Hughes to make it 19-10.
On its next possession, IUP scored its final touchdown on Williams' 37-yard pass to Brown before the Crimson Hawks played keep away for much of the rest of the way.
A fourth-quarter drive by IUP produced no points but consumed nearly 9 minutes sealed the victory.
“Things just didn't go our way today,” Dunn said. “Give IUP credit. They were better today than us. You know, it just wasn't our day.”
Dave Mackall is a freelance writer.