The Indiana University of Pennsylvania Crimson Hawks (3-1) played their best game of the season on Saturday, defeating the Mercyhurst Lakers (0-4) 41-7 at George P. Miller Stadium.
After playing two straight road games with some mixed results, the IUP Crimson Hawks returned home to an energetic crowd on a perfect day for football.
Drew Robinson received the opening kickoff for Mercyhurst University, but he fumbled the football after being walloped by Andrew DeGol (sophomore, management).
The Crimson Hawks did not waste much time after that, as true freshman running back Luigi Lista-Brinza (freshman, kinesiology health & sports science) scored an 11-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage.
Mercyhurst would counterpunch with a nice drive as Brendan Boylan connected with Jaquan Williams for a 47-yard completion. Mercyhurst was unable to capitalize, though, as Dylan Kondis missed a 36-yard field goal wide to the right.
“You have to make plays, and we’re not making them,” Mercyhurst head coach Marty Schaetzle said.
The Crimson Hawks scored 27 points – five of their six touchdowns of the afternoon – in the first quarter and took a stranglehold on the contest early on.
Chase Haslett (graduate, sports management) flared a 15-yard pass to senior tight end Brock DeCicco, putting IUP up by 20.
Haslett was efficient – perhaps more so than in any other game this year – on a day when his father, Jim Haslett, was in the stands to watch him play for the first time since his freshman year of high school. Jim is a graduate of IUP and currently serves as the defensive coordinator of the Washington Redskins.
“It was great having him out there,” Chase Haslett said, “and he completely supports me in everything I do.”
Lista-Brinza, who has gained more than 100 yards on the ground in three of the team’s first four games this year, highlighted the opening frame of scoring with an electrifying 41-yard touchdown scamper, his third of the first quarter. IUP would end the first half with a 34-point lead.
“I thought we were really sharp in the first half,” IUP head coach Curt Cignetti said. “I felt we took a major step as a team.”
Drew Carswell (senior, criminology) caught a touchdown pass and was not surprised at the outcome of the game.
“I’m not surprised at all,” Carswell said. “We’ve got a good team in there, and I feel like we can only get better each week.”
It was also a great day for the IUP defense, as it allowed a season-low 146 yards. Brandon Brown-Dukes, who topped the 100-yard mark against IUP in 2012, was held to only 16 yards on 14 carries. The defensive line was arguably the strongest unit on either side of the ball for the Crimson Hawks.
“We’ve got a really good front seven,” defensive tackle Karon Gibson (junior, hospitality management) said.
The front seven pressured the Mercyhurst offense all game long and held their three quarterbacks with a combined 11 of 24 for only 117 yards passing.
“We have to use this game to get better and not worse,” Cignetti said.
IUP looks to get better with revenge on their minds as they travel to Edinboro University of Pennsylvania next Saturday to face the Fighting Scots. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. at Sox Harrison Stadium.