Jeannette grad Batts, IUP earn spot in Division II playoffs
Their ultimate dream is still within reach.
The IUP football team, featuring Jeannette High School graduate Jordan Batts at defensive end, did not reach their preseason goal of winning the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) title this year. However, the Crimson Hawks put together an impressive enough season that they have been selected for a spot in the NCAA Division II playoffs. That means the larger goal — a national championship — is still a possibility.
IUP is now 8-2 on the season after a monstrous 62-0 statement win over Cheyney on Saturday. The Crimson Hawks yielded just 44 yards of total offense while gaining 407 yards. The Crimson Hawks were selected as the No. 5 seed in Super Region One. They will visit No. 4 seed Charleston (W. Va.) in the first round of the playoffs this Saturday. Kickoff is 2 p.m.
The Golden Eagles are 10-1 this season, fresh off of 59-7 drubbing of UVA College at Wise. They've outscored their opposition 472 to 282 in 2015.
A total of 28 teams — seven from each of Division II's four regions — make the playoff field. This is the first year that seven teams from each region make the playoffs, as previously six teams from each region qualified.
The top seed in each region receives a first round bye. If IUP wins, it will face the top seed, Shepherd, on Nov. 28.
MSU eyes Ohio State
In Division I action, Michigan State, featuring Jeannette grad Demetrious Cox in the secondary, returned to its winning form with an impressive 24-7 win over Maryland on Saturday. Cox, a redshirt junior defensive back, had three tackles and broke up a pass in the win. The victory showed the Spartans were able to rebound after being dealt their first loss of the season, a 39-38 heartbreaker to Nebraska on Nov. 7. The Spartans are now 9-1 overall, 5-1 in the Big Ten Conference and ranked No. 13 in the college football playoff rankings and No. 9 in the Associated Press poll.
Michigan State is still alive in the hunt for a Big Ten Title, but their biggest test of the year, by far, will come Saturday when the visit Ohio State, ranked No. 2 in the national by the AP.
The defending national champion Buckeyes have looked nearly flawless this season, rolling to a 10-0 record and being at or near the top of the rankings every week.
Complicating the matter for the Spartans are injuries. Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook left the Maryland game with an injured shoulder, though reports indicate he will be back to face the Buckeyes.
Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on ABC.
SVC, Craft fall
St. Vincent College ended the season on a tough note.
The Bearcats fell to NCAA Division III Presidents' Athletic Conference (PAC) foe Bethany 35-27 in the annual “Green Game.”
The Bearcats led 27-14 entering the fourth quarter, but Bethany stormed back with three late touchdowns to take the win.
Like he has done all season, Jeannette grad Shavonta Craft, a junior running back, had a big game for the Bearcats. The local product scored a touchdown on a one-yard run in the third quarter to put St. Vincent up 27-14. He had 10 carries for 25 yards and two catches for 13 yards.
“Shavonta is the total package,” said head coach Ron Dolciato. “He can run, catch and he can block. He's a very physical kid. When people ask me what kind of a team we want to have, we want to have football players like Shavonta.”
With the loss, St. Vincent finished the season 4-6 overall and 3-5 in the PAC. Craft finishes the season with 103 carries for 401 yards, 21 catches for 233 yards and a team-high eight total touchdowns.
Seton Hill loses
Seton Hill, featuring Jeannette grad Mike Wise as a reserve tight end, dropped a 17-14 heartbreaker to fellow Division II PSAC member Bloomsburg in the season finale Saturday. The Griffins tied the game 14-14 late in the fourth quarter, but Bloomsburg nailed a field goal as time expired to take the win. The Griffins fell to 3-8 overall with the loss. Wise, a sophomore, saw extended playing time this season after missing most of last year due to injury.
Brian Knavish is a contributing writer.