IUP beats New Haven, advances to Super Region One finals
WEST HAVEN, Conn. – In the waning seconds, coach Curt Cignetti was confident his defense would deliver.
The Indiana (Pa.) defense had pitched a second-half shutout, but the Crimson Hawks still had to hold their breath on the final play before celebrating a 17-14 win over New Haven on Saturday in the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs in front of 2,034 fans at DellaCamera Stadium.
But once the final heave from the IUP 31 by New Haven quarterback Ryan Osiecki landed in receiver Jason Thompson’s hands out of the end zone, it was time to enjoy advancing to the quarterfinals for the first time since 1997.
No. 11 IUP (12-1) plays unbeaten No. 2 Winston-Salem (12-0) next Saturday in the Super Region One championship. Winston-Salem State beat Shippensburg Saturday.
“I thought our defense was outstanding,” said Cignetti, who in his second season led the program to the playoffs for the first time in five years. “Particularly in the second half they stopped them time and time … and time again.”
Junior middle linebacker Alexander Berdahl made 12 tackles and had two of IUP’s four sacks.
Both teams did all of their scoring in the first half, with redshirt junior quarterback Mike Box throwing a 6-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Dummermuth with 24 seconds left in the second quarter to give IUP a 17-14 lead.
Prior to that, senior tailback De’Antwan “The Rocket” Williams had been IUP’s most dangerous weapon. He took the opening kickoff 86 yards to set up the team’s first touchdown, which Harvie Tuck ran in from 3 yards for a 7-0 lead 57 seconds into the game.
A 41-yard run from Williams led to Brian Ullman’s 24-yard field goal, which pushed the advantage to 10-0 with 2:21 left in the quarter. Williams had 68 of his game-high 125 rushing yards before halftime.
“Whenever my number is called I just go out and do what I can do,” Williams said. “It just worked out for me. The o-line and everyone else did their job.”
Osiecki (15 of 32 passing, 194 yards) then directed New Haven (10-1) to a pair of touchdowns to put the Chargers up, 14-10. The senior quarterback connected with Thompson on a 68-yard touchdown with 1:36 left in the first quarter, and they teamed up again for a 1-yard touchdown pass with 4:04 left in the half.
Three times on New Haven’s second scoring drive, IUP penalties on fourth down kept it alive. The most costly was Carl Fleming’s personal foul, for being too rough on an offsides call, during a 25-yard field-goal attempt.
Even though Box finished just 6 of 13 for 97 yards, he made his biggest passes on the final touchdown drive. The former UConn quarterback hit Salath Williams with a 41-yard pass on third-and-3 from the New Haven 46 that took IUP to the 5. Three plays later, he found Dummermuth in the end zone.
“That was a huge series,” Cignetti said. “It was a key drive because they had seized momentum. (So that touchdown) was huge.”
William S. Paxton is a freelance writer.