Crimson Hawks blow out Clarion 42-14, keep playoff hopes alive

After topping Mercyhurst University last week, Crimson Hawks foot­ball returned to its explosive offensive form and maintained a stout defensive showing in a 42-14 blowout of the Golden Eagles Saturday.

Indiana University of Pennsylvania took two steps backward on the football field after an undefeated start through five weeks, but the Crimson Hawks might now be back to their early-season form after their second consecutive step forward.

Putting points on the board in each of the contest’s four quarters at Memorial Stadium, the Hawks finally appeared as close to their characteristically dominant form as they’ve been in weeks, kicking off their second winning streak of the year.

Despite the string of victories, the team is determined to stay dedicated and steer clear from another slip in the standings. Lofty playoff expectations were practically diminished when the Hawks dropped two straight games against Slippery Rock University and Edinboro University, so the Hawks are focused on maintaining their “one game at a time” mentality as they look to extend their run in the win column.

“It feels great to be on a streak, but we aren’t satisfied at all,” said linebacker Carl Fleming (senior, criminology), who led IUP with 10 tackles against Clarion University and also recovered a fumble.

“We have to keep getting better each week and win out and see what happens.”

For IUP, it was the offense that lit up the stage against the Golden Eagles (4-5). While the defense played a significant role in the win, stepping up for the second straight week after a sud­den drop in production in the Hawks’ losses, it was running back De’Antwan “The Rocket” Williams (senior, sociol­ogy) and quarterback Mike Box (senior, psychology) that stood out in IUP’s 42-point showing.

Clarion got on the board with an 11-yard touchdown run by Travis Day, but at that point in the game, IUP had already taken a 14-point lead thanks to two scoring runs by Williams, who had nearly 200 yards on the ground last week and was again a vital piece of the offense.

Williams said beforehand that IUP was looking to “take it one game at a time” and play as if Saturday’s matchup was its last, and his performance was a clear result of that approach.

Miami University (Ohio) transfer Erik Finklea (senior, health and physical education) had a productive performance as the No. 2 back, gaining 57 yards of his own, but Williams was the clear-cut standout with 129 yards on just 18 carries.

His first score, a 4-yard run, was topped by a 20-yard touchdown later in the first quarter.

Box got in on the action as well, finding his favorite target through the air, wideout Terrill Barnes (senior, man­agement), for a 30-yard touchdown pass in the second. The score served as the lone play of that particular drive, and it wasn’t long afterward that the defense chipped in to the scoring frenzy, with transfer safety Marco Pecora (senior, health and physical education) taking an interception 45 yards into the end zone.

Early in the third quarter, Box got across the goal line himself, carrying the ball from a yard out for his second touchdown of the day.

His third rushing score in the last two weeks, the touchdown put IUP up 35-7 and in firm command of Saturday’s Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference matchup.

In addition to helping IUP capture the victory, Box may have solidified his place atop the quarterback depth chart for the remainder of the year, overcoming a streak of turnovers to per­form efficiently the last two weeks.

Even after Box was relieved because of the Hawks’ hefty lead, IUP remained steadfast in its victorious approach, and Steve Franco (freshman, Eberly College of Business) found wide receiver Drew Carswell (junior, criminology) for a 21-yard touchdown connection.

Clarion did get on the board again when Darelle Carson threw a 35-yard score to Jon Reid, but IUP had all but secured the win by the fourth quarter, taking an astounding five-possession lead with its final touchdown.

In contrast with the Golden Eagles’ 298 total yards, IUP posted more than 400, also finishing with no turnovers. Former Pittsburgh safety Eric J. Williams (junior, criminology) was another standout for the Crimson Hawks defense, intercepting a pass by Clarion’s Bobby Thomas. Additionally, two players recorded sacks for IUP, which held its opponent to 14 points or less for the last two weeks.

Now 7-2 on the season (4-2 in the conference), the Crimson Hawks will next return home to Frank Cignetti Field at George P. Miller Stadium for an important Saturday showdown with Gannon University, which topped Seton Hill this week but suffered a blowout loss to California University (Pa.) the week before.

“It feels good to get on a streak, but we have to continue to build off of it and never get satisfied,” Box said. “We’re enjoying it right now, but tomorrow we are focused on Gannon; it’s another one-game season.”