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It was homecoming for Indiana University of Pennsylvania Saturday, but by the end of the Crimson Hawks’ Week 5 game on the football field, their opponent was likely ready to go back home.
Fresh off a historic victory over rival California University of Pennsylvania, IUP came into Saturday’s matchup with Millersville looking to extend its winning streak and promised not to overlook the Marauders, who had yet to win a game of their own.
And judging by the score, the Hawks had adequately prepared themselves for action, stampeding over Millersville in front of the school’s alumni crowd in a 62-3 blowout.
Offensively, quarterback Mike Box (senior, psychology) had perhaps his best game of the season despite throwing only 12 passes, three of which went for touchdowns. He had plenty of productive support from his backfield and blockers, however, as the offensive line and fullback Dom Maggio (junior, criminology) helped pave the way for more than 300 total rushing yards.
Allowing just three points, the defense kept Millersville from the endzone. Limiting Millersville to just 65 yards through the air, the highly touted unit also forced a pair of turnovers, with both Eric J. Williams (junior, criminology) and Chris Brown (senior, health and physical education) notching an interception at the back of the secondary.
“We played a hard game and keep getting better every week,” Maggio said. “I’m out there to hit somebody, and every yard the running backs get, that shows I did my job. We don’t overlook anybody; we play every game like we’re coming at you.”
Scoring was not a problem for IUP throughout the afternoon, and the vast difference in momentum between the two teams was evident early in the first quarter. A quick defensive stop gave the Hawks possession of the ball, and a 44-yard run on a reverse by wide receiver Pat Brewer (senior, health and physical education) put the team in the red zone, where De’Antwan Williams (senior, sociology) pounded the ball across the goal-line for the first score of the game.
Millersville did its best to respond on the subsequent series, dialing up a handful of draw plays for running back Ian Sadon, who finished with 124 yards on the ground as one of the Marauders’ few standouts. A 36-yard field goal by Evan Stahl cut IUP’s lead to four points, but the kick marked the last time the Marauders would put points on the board for the remainder of the afternoon.
“I thought we were pretty focused,” coach Curt Cignetti said. “Offensively, we played well aside from some penalties in the second half, and it was a good team win. We created a lot of good turnovers on defense. It was a team win.”
With the defensive unit adjusting to Millersville’s strategy on the ground and forcing backup quarterback Curtis Frye to take over for starter Connor Casey, IUP had little trouble opening up the game, taking control of the contest with a string of consecutive scores and a dominant showing on the offensive side of the ball.
“The chemistry just adds to it,” said defensive tackle Larry Gooden (senior, marketing), who had a sack in the game. “When you’re out there and can trust everybody…we know each other; we’re family. We play together, and we’re not going to let anyone be taken down. You’re not taking one of us down if you’re not taking us all.”
“We have a lot of seniors on this team, and somebody’s going to tell us at the end of the year to hang up the cleats, and we don’t want our last week to be Week 11,” said left tackle Byron Dovales (senior, health and physical education), describing the passion and motivation IUP has brought to the field this year, both in Saturday’s win and in other instances.
A 23-yard connection from Mike Box to receiver Terrill Barnes (senior, management), who has consistently stepped up as a deep threat for IUP, gave the Hawks a two-score lead. The touchdown came after the team was put into scoring range by a 59-yard kickoff return by Brewer. Not long afterward, Box found wideout Sean McVay (junior, management) for his second scoring strike of the afternoon, a seven-yard throw that capped off a drive including a 23-yard run by Williams.
Millersville maintained possession of the ball for nearly six minutes on the following series, but once again was unable to penetrate IUP’s top-ranked defense to get on the board.
Manufacturing their own steady drive, the Crimson Hawks followed up the Marauders’ effort with a six-yard touchdown pass from Box to tight end Tyler Dummermuth (senior, safety sciences), then boosted their lead to 35-3 when a Millersville fumble was returned 20 yards for a score by cornerback Jay Watkins (freshman, health and physical education) immediately afterward.
Millersville started the second half with success by intercepting a Box pass tipped off the hands of Dummermuth, but once again the Marauders were halted by IUP’s stout defense.
With a handful of backups beginning to see playing time as a result of the score, newcomer Israel Green (freshman, computer science) wore down the opposing defense with a bulk of carries, ultimately putting the Hawks up by a score of 42-3 with a seven-yard touchdown run.
Even with backup quarterback Steve Franco (freshman, Eberly College of Business) stepping into the game in relief of Box, Millersville struggled to slow down the Crimson Hawks.
The younger brother of former IUP safety Johnny Franco, the second-string signal-caller found reserve receiver Khaliq Coleman (freshman, health and physical education) for a 21-yard score in the third quarter, then kept the ball on a goal-line sneak play several drives later, putting IUP up 56-3.
IUP’s final touchdown of the afternoon was recorded thanks to the legs of Patrick Ferguson (freshman, health and physical education) and Green, the latter of which scored on a five-yard run after four straight carries by Ferguson to move the Hawks inside the red zone.
The blowout victory, which moved IUP to 5-0 on the season, wasn’t the only thing worthy of celebration on Saturday. Former head coach Frank Cignetti Sr., the father of Curt Cignetti, was honored at halftime for his successful tenure with the Hawks and witnessed the field inside George P. Miller Stadium being dedicated in his name, complete with the placement of a new banner atop the stadium scoreboard.
Next week, IUP will look to stay undefeated against one of its primary rivals, Slippery Rock University.
The Rock (4-1) will host the Week 6 matchup, which could be one of the biggest challenges remaining on the Crimson Hawks’ regular season schedule.