It’s probably too early to crown Chase Haslett as Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s MVP on the football field, but it isn’t too soon to say he looks the part as the Crimson Hawks quarterback.
Making his debut as the starting signal-caller for IUP on Saturday, Haslett did about as much as he could to seal a summer-long competition under center, throwing three touchdowns in the Crimson Hawks’ 41-19 rout of St. Augustine’s University.
Haslett completed 14 of 20 passes for 176 yards, distributing at least two throws to six different receivers.
Perhaps most importantly, though, he looked comfortable doing it. And that’s saying something, considering the quiet pressure that surrounded his role heading into the season.
Despite transferring this spring from a Division I school – the University of Illinois – and bearing the family name of former IUP graduate and NFL coach Jim Haslett, his ascension to the No. 1 spot on the depth chart was not automatic.
Even after weeks of practice that saw Haslett share reps with Logan Weaver (sophomore, hospitality management), head coach Curt Cignetti declined to announce a starter.
“He’s almost like a freshman,” Cignetti said of Haslett, “and we didn’t cut back; we threw a lot at him.”
However, shortly after the coin toss at Frank Cignetti Field at George P. Miller Stadium Saturday, it was indeed Haslett who started to warm up on the sidelines. With his left hand gloved and No. 18 jersey on, he prepared to take the field as the de facto leader of IUP’s offense, which hadn’t started a quarterback not named Mike Box since 2011.
An interception in the waning minutes of the first half was among Haslett’s few hiccups in IUP’s victory. While there weren’t necessarily any highlight-reel plays that stemmed from his throws, there was a surprisingly sudden sense of stability that emerged at QB with Haslett’s poised presence in the pocket.
“He’s got natural quarterback skills, probably more so than anybody we’ve had since we’ve been here,” Cignetti said. “He wasn’t perfect – he missed a couple plays – but all in all, it was a positive day and something to build on … I’m very pleased with his progress.”
Haslett, who said he doesn’t consider himself above his fellow quarterbacks or any teammates for that matter, didn’t hesitate to critique his own performance after the win, either.
“I hadn’t played a college down before, so going out there, for the first bit, I was a little nervous,” he said. “I’ve got to compose myself in the pocket more and go through my reads and progressions, and Coach tells me that all the time.”
The first-time starter was also quick to credit both the offensive line and the skill players around him, noting the presence of both experienced and young starters throughout the lineup.
“Oh, it’s awesome,” Haslett said. “Brock (DeCicco) and Drew (Carswell) and Sal (Williams) and even Izzy (Green), you got 34, Walt Pegues, they’re all great guys. With those guys you can do anything: You got speed, you got height … and it’s the O-line that starts the whole thing. They set the tone, and whatever they do, we’ll complement them.”
Calling DeCicco (graduate) the “Gronkowski of Division II football” and also complimenting IUP’s new running back committee, Haslett exemplified a team-first approach despite his own promising debut.
Now, with one game and any lingering QB competition questions out of the way, Haslett said he wants to make sure everyone – including himself – stays on the right track.
“I’m a little relieved now, I’m not gonna lie,” he said. “Probably going into the second half I was still nervous going out there, but now getting one under my belt, I feel like we need to focus as a team and keep grinding. Hopefully we got 14 more to go.”
All good words from Haslett. And they’ll sound even better if his first performance, coupled with the early praise from coaches and teammates, is any indication of what’s to come.