Top-ranked defense leads IUP into D-II quarterfinals
College Football Videos
Among the reasons Indiana (Pa.) stands among the eight teams left in the NCAA Division II playoffs are a punishing ground game led by a pair of running backs with more than combined 2,800 yards, efficient passing that produced 17 touchdowns and just three interceptions, and solid special teams play.
But what might most define the 2012 squad is a defense that yields the fewest yards and points per game in D-II. As far as Paul Tortorella can tell, this is a first in his 18 mostly winning seasons as defensive coordinator.
“This defense doesn't have to take a backseat to any of (the others),” Tortorella said. “I'm not saying they're not talented, because they are, but they have a lot of intangibles that makes us play as good as we can play.”
Among those intangibles are “good leadership, we're resilient, we're mentally tough,” said Tortorella, who was hired in 1995 by then-coach Frank Cignetti Sr., the father of the current coach, Curt Cignetti. “We might not look that good in uniform, but the bottom line is the end result. Our goal is to play well enough to win the game and our guys have done a great job of that.”
“We work together as a unit, we feed off each other,” said junior linebacker Carl Fleming, a Pitt transfer. “I think that's a big thing when you have a good defense. We make each other better, and we get each other motivated to come out each and every play and do better. Don't be satisfied with the last play.”
Aided by an offense that ranks second nationally in time of possession, IUP has given up 251.7 yards and 11.9 points per game and ranks second in turnover margin. Probably the defense's signature performance was muzzling Shippensburg in the PSAC championship game. The Raiders rolled in unbeaten, averaging 566 yards and 53 points a game, and left a 41-10 loser held to 271 yards.
Ranked 11th nationally, the Crimson Hawks (12-1) face another stern test Saturday when they visit No. 2 Winston-Salem State (12-0) in a quarterfinal game. With a huge offensive line and several quality skill players, the Rams average 44.5 points and 483.3 yards a game.
As part of any discussion of defense, Cignetti, who took over his dad's job last season, often references the “blueprint” he brought with him after working on Nick Saban's staff for four years at Alabama. “It made a lot of sense to me,” Cignetti said. “The identity that you're a tough, relentless football team.”
Bob Cohn is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7810
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- W&J’s Crossey receiving preseason All-American honors
- EF big man Prota part of Pitt-Johnstown’s incoming hoops class
- Shasko aims for fitness, improvement in 2nd season as St. Vincent women’s soccer coach
- SF grad Vock looks to build on successful junior year with Behrend soccer
- College notes: Harbert honored by D-III coaches