Story and photo courtesy of Indiana (Pa.) Athletics
INDIANA, Pa. – De'Antwan Williams had 152 rushing yards and the IUP defense forced three turnovers as the Crimson Hawks defeated Shepherd 27-17 in the first round of the NCAA Division II Football Championships on Saturday at Miller Stadium.
IUP (11-1) is the third-seeded team in Super Region One while Shepherd (8-3) came in seeded sixth in the region.
The Crimson Hawks will now move onto the second round as they travel to play second-seeded New Haven in Connecticut.
Williams paced a ground game that totaled 203 yards against a defense that entered the day leading Division II by allowing just 37.6 rushing yards per game.
The IUP defense gave up just 250 total yards to the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference's best offense, including 96 through the air. The Crimson Hawks picked off Rams quarterback Bobby Cooper two times, with Carl Fleming (Reisterstown, MD/Franklin) returning one 77 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. Alexander Berdahl (Ashburn, VA/Bishop O'Connell) picked off the other pass in the fourth quarter in Shepherd territory, setting up a field goal by Brett Ullman (Baltimore, MD/Perry Hall), the final score of the game.
This was the second week that both Fleming and Berdahl pulled in interceptions, and also the second straight week that Fleming returned his for a score.
Fleming also had a forced fumble early in the first quarter, which set up IUP's first score of the game, a five-yard touchdown pass from Mike Box (Lawrenceville, GA/Collins Hill) to Terrill Barnes (Gettysburg/Gettysburg). Ullman's extra point made it 7-0 as the Crimson Hawks led with 8:27 to go in the first.
Shepherd would tie the game in the second quarter, capitalizing on an IUP missed field goal with an 80-yard touchdown drive that ended with an 18-yard run by Cooper. The Rams fed off of that momentum to force a three-and-out by the Crimson Hawks on the ensuing drive. But after a 10-yard run on first down by Allen Cross, Fleming stepped in front of Cooper's pass and followed a convoy of blockers 77 yards down the IUP sideline for a score.
That score came with 3:36 to go in the half and closed out the scoring in the second as IUP held a 14-7 lead at the break.
The Rams came out strong in the third quarter, forcing another IUP three-and-out before DJ Scott returned the punt 31 yards down to the Crimson Hawks 29-yard line.
Shepherd got down to the IUP one yard line in just three plays, where Cooper again crossed the goal line to help tie the score at 14-14 less than four minutes into the half.
The Crimson Hawks again couldn't get anything going on the next drive, as a penalty, a sack and a negative rush led to another punt and good field position as the Rams took over at the IUP 40. Shepherd drove to the IUP 20 and on a third-and-three play, Marvens Toussaint (Fort Lauderdale, FL/Port Charlotte) and Terrell Holloway (Penn Hills/Penn Hills) tag teamed on a huge stop to force a Rams field goal as they took a 17-14 lead at the 6:35 mark.
IUP answered the following drive, using a 24-yard pass from Box to Tyler Dummermuth (New Philadelphia, OH/New Philadelphia) and a personal foul penalty on Shepherd to set up a Williams touchdown run from five yards out. Ullman's extra point made it a 21-17 IUP lead with 1:45 left in the third quarter.
After a Shepherd three-and-out, IUP drove down the field and got a 39-yard field goal from Ullman at the beginning of the fourth quarter to extend the lead to 24-17. The scoring drive started with an 11-yard pass from Box to Barnes followed by a 28-yard burst by Williams to put IUP at the Shepherd 17.
The following Shepherd drive resulted in Berdahl's interception at the Rams 16-yard line, setting up Ullman's 31-yard boot with 9:11 left that gave IUP a 10-point lead.
The Rams would get the ball back just once more, advancing to the IUP 42 yard line where Fleming made a tackle on fourth-and-one to turn the ball over with 6:37 left on the clock. The Crimson Hawks would then just bleed the clock, running 12 plays to secure the win.
Fleming finished with 13 total tackles, adding a pass breakup to go along with the forced fumble and interception. Johnny Franco (Altoona/Tyrone) had 12 tackles while Berdahl added eight. Toussaint and Jerrell McFadden (Manassas, VA/Osbourn) also broke up passes while Greg Meisner (Greensburg/Hempfield ) recovered the Shepherd fumble in the first quarter.
The Rams rushed for 154 yards, getting 63 from Cross. Cooper finished with 43 yards on eight carries while Jihad Rasheed added 41. Cooper went 12-of-28 for 96 yards and two interceptions, finding Larry Lowe four times for 25 yards.
Barnes finished with three receptions for 55 yards and that score while Box threw for 122 yards. Harvie Tuck (Akron, OH/St. Vincent-St. Mary) ran 16 times for 60 yards.
IUP has met New Haven eight previous times, holding a 5-3 edge in the series. This will be the first meeting between the two schools in the postseason.
New Haven enters with a perfect 10-0 mark out of the Northeast 10 Conference, earning a bye in the first round due to its spot as the second seed.
The winner of next week's game will move onto the Super Region One finals against either Winston-Salem State or Shippensburg.
Kickoff on Saturday is set for 12:00 p.m. from Ralph F. Dellacamera Stadium in West Haven, Conn.