Story and photo courtesy of Indiana (Pa.) Athletics
WEST HAVEN, Conn. – The IUP defense forced an incomplete pass in the end zone as time expired to hold on to a dramatic 17-14 win over New Haven in the second round of the 2012 NCAA Division II Football Championships on Saturday afternoon.
The play started with eight seconds remaining from the IUP 31-yard line as a slew of Crimson Hawks defenders helped force the incompletion on a Ryan Osiecki pass to Jason Thompson in the back of the end zone.
It capped an exciting last 3:40 of action that saw New Haven begin the drive from its own six-yard line and included a fourth down conversion at the IUP 36-yard line.
Punting from the New Haven 41, Pat Smith (Hollidaysburg/Hollidaysburg) had perfect placement on his kick to give the Chargers a long field with less than four minutes remaining. A 16-yard scramble by Osiecki on second down quickly got the ball out to the 28 before a 10-yard pass two plays later gave the Chargers a first and 10 at their own 43 yard line.
Another first down conversion moved the ball into IUP territory but on first and 10 Shane Meisner (Greensburg/Hempfield ) broke through the line and sacked Osiecki back to the Crimson Hawks 49. Meisner also forced a fumble on the sack as he chased Osiecki from behind, but the Chargers fell on the ball to extend the game with 1:02 left.
Osiecki then completed three straight passes, with the third being a five yarder to Mike DeCaro on fourth down to give the Chargers a first down at the IUP 31 with 14 seconds left. The very next play Osiecki was nearly brought down again, scrambling out of the pocket and getting rid of the ball just in time, setting up the final play of the game.
The nation's number one defense played big when it counted, forcing a fumble and four punts from New Haven in the second half to keep the high flying Chargers offense out of the end zone in the game's final 30 minutes of play.
The Chargers had the ball to start the second half but Jerrell McFadden (Manassas, VA/Osbourn) would recover a DeCaro fumble forced by Chris Brown (Altoona/Bishop Guilfoyle) on the second play of the drive. However, IUP couldn't capitalize and went three-and-out and gave the Chargers the ball back at their own 24-yard line. The ensuing drive by New Haven lasted 14 plays and 7:52 but an incomplete pass on third and 20 by the Chargers led to another punt.
The Crimson Hawks forced another punt at the beginning of the fourth quarter after holding New Haven to a six-yard gain on third and 10 as James Griffin (Wallingford/Strath Haven) came up with the key stop. The following New Haven drive also ended in a punt after IUP forced another third and long.
IUP took the lead for good with 24 seconds to go in the first half on a six-yard touchdown pass from Mike Box (Lawrenceville, GA/Collins Hill) to tight end Tyler Dummermuth (New Philadelphia, OH/New Philadelphia). The key play in the drive came on third and three from the New Haven 46 as Box connected with Salath Williams (Harrisburg/Bishop McDevitt) for 41 yards down the sideline to the Chargers five-yard line. Box would find Dummermuth three plays later in the front corner of the end zone as Brett Ullman (Baltimore, MD/Perry Hall)'s extra point made it 17-14.
The score came on a drive that went 65 yards in 3:33 and answered a New Haven one-yard touchdown pass from Osiecki to Thompson. That drive by the Chargers lasted 8:51 and went 80 yards in 16 plays and included a third and fourth down conversion. Twice IUP had forced New Haven into field goal attempts inside the Crimson Hawks 20-yard line, but three costly penalties helped give the Chargers new life, finally capitalizing with a touchdown.
The Crimson Hawks started the game off with some excitement, as De'Antwan Williams (Woodbridge, VA/Woodbridge) returned the opening kickoff 86 yards to the New Haven seven-yard line. Two plays later Harvie Tuck (Akron, OH/St. Vincent-St. Mary) ran in from three yards out to help give IUP a quick 7-0 lead less than one minute into the game.
Three straight combined drives resulted in zero points before IUP drove down to the New Haven six where Ullman would convert on a 24-yard field goal to give the Crimson Hawks a 10-0 lead with 2:21 left in the first quarter.
New Haven responded on just the third play of its next drive as Osiecki hooked up with Thompson for a 68 yard touchdown pass to make it 10-7.
The Chargers outgained IUP 352-252 and had 20 first downs compared to the Crimson Hawks 10. New Haven also won time of possession 31:23-28:37. However New Haven converted just 5-of-15 third downs and the IUP defense came up with four sacks of Osiecki and forced three fumbles.
Osiecki, who entered the game completing over 70 percent of his passes, completed just 15-of-32 for 194 yards with two touchdowns. Thompson had both of those scores on his only two receptions on the day, totaling 69 yards. DeCaro led New Haven with 54 yards on nine carries while Victor Jones added 45 on the ground.
De'Antwan Williams (Woodbridge, VA/Woodbridge) had 125 yards on 24 carries, including a 41-yarder. He also added a 14-yard reception. Tuck finished with 39 yards on eight carries, including the first quarter score.
Box finished 6-of-13 for 97 yards and a touchdown, with Salath Williams (Harrisburg/Bishop McDevitt) catching two passes for 59 and Dummermuth adding two receptions for 14 yards and a score. Smith punted seven times, averaging 38.1 yards per punt, and pinned New Haven inside the 20 twice.
Defensively, Alexander Berdahl (Ashburn, VA/Bishop O'Connell) led all tacklers with 14 stops, including 12 solo, and had a pair of sacks. Brown finished with nine tackles while he, Meisner, McFadden, Griffin and Johnny Franco (Altoona/Tyrone) all had a pass breakup. Franco and Meisner also each added a sack.
The Crimson Hawks, now 12-1 on the year, entered as the third seed in Super Region One while New Haven (10-1) was the second seed and received a bye in the first round. IUP moved on to the second round after defeating six seed Shepherd 27-17 last weekend.
IUP now moves on to face Winston-Salem State, the top team in the region and second ranked team in the nation next Saturday, December 1 in North Carolina. Kickoff is slated for 12:00 p.m.