IUP finally gets the better of Cal
While the rest of the football world knows the 20 yards in front of a goal line as a red zone, Indiana (Pa.)'s defensive players consider that last bit of space their Crimson proving ground.
The Crimson Hawks, who entered Saturday's fifth annual “Coal Bowl” against California (Pa.) allowing the fewest points in NCAA Division II, kept their cool in the face of early Vulcan scoring opportunities and ultimately forced five interceptions, including two in their end zone, during a 20-7 win.
No. 7 IUP (4-0, 2-0), the defending PSAC West champion, snapped a six-game losing streak against California (3-1, 1-1).
“I made mention of us owing them in the pregame locker room speech, and that was the first time I'd mentioned anything,” IUP coach Curt Cignetti said.
The Crimson Hawks allowed just 230 yards of offense, and after shutting out their past two opponents, their defense did not surrender a point, as Cal scored its touchdown on an interception return.
Cal drove to IUP's 6-yard line twice in the first half and came away empty-handed, as defensive back Terrell Holloway snagged two of his three interceptions in the Crimson Hawks' end zone for touchbacks.
“Our (attitude) when teams get into the red zone is that it's hard to score down here,” said Holloway, a Penn Hills grad. “You can't throw the deep ball. And we're going to stop the run. So we're going to make you throw the passes that you have to make.”
Holloway's interception that didn't result in a touchback set up the only scoring drive of the first half. He dove to catch a tipped pass at California's 43. Five plays later, De'Antwan Williams scored from the 3 with 7:10 left in the first quarter.
“The thing about the first one was I would've got in a lot of trouble, because I blitzed on my own,” Holloway said. “But I'm just playing football. ... When I saw the ball, I just wanted it.”
The Crimson Hawks, who gained just 111 yards in the first half, marched 75 yards on their opening possession of the third quarter. Mike Box completed a 35-yard touchdown pass to Terrill Barnes to cap a drive that put IUP ahead by two scores.
California, whose three first-half turnovers wasted 149 yards of offense in the first half, ended its scoring drought when defensive back Dewey McDonald returned an interception 83 yards for a touchdown — his second in as many weeks — with 3:40 left in the third quarter cut IUP's lead to 14-7.
The Vulcans switched their quarterback from Cody Schroeder to James Harris just before halftime.
“We thought that we had to do something to try to spark the team, and you can't change teams, you can only change quarterbacks,” California coach Mike Kellar said. “The last thing we want to do is create quarterback controversies, but we're trying to make yards and get wins.”
Harris had few opportunities, though, as the Vulcans ran just five plays in the third quarter.
Williams' second touchdown run of the day, an 8-yarder with 4:18 to play, gave the IUP a comfortable margin.
Williams, named the game's Most Valuable Player, finished with 38 rushes for 172 yards.
“We came in here at halftime, and every leader stressed that we weren't going to let up,” Holloway said. “We said we're going to go out there like it's 0-0.”
Note: IUP has named the field within George P. Miller Stadium as Frank Cignetti Field. Cignetti served as IUP head coach from 1986 to 2006 with a record of 182-50-1.