INDIANA – When the buses pulled into the parking spots at George C. Miller Stadium Saturday, California University’s football had finally made its way to a game that most felt would define the season and the strength of the team.
Indiana was not only still smarting over a heart-breaking loss from last season but boasting an undefeated recorded, a No. 7 ranking and the top defense in NCAA Division II football.
Surely, this was the best measuring stick for both teams.
When it was over, Indiana had a 20-7 victory in this PSAC West Division game dubbed the Coal Bowl, and Cal had more questions than answers after losing its first game of the season. The Vulcans (1-1, 3-1) saw their six-game winning streak over IUP (2-0, 4-0) snapped.
IUP’s defense intercepted five passes, did not allow an offensive point and choked off the Vulcans’ rushing attack, holding Cal to 75 yards and a 2.7-yards per carry average. Oh, and the Crimson Hawks – and in particular defensive back Terrell Holloway – managed to send starting quarterback Cody Schroeder to the bench. Holloway intercepted Schroeder twice in the end zone in the first half, picking off a deflected pass in the first quarter.
“We had to do something to spark the team,” said Cal head coach Mike Kellar of the quarterback switch, which came with one minute left in the half and Cal trailing 7-0.
“You can’t change the team, but you can change the quarterback. We’ll have to sit down as a staff and talk about (who will start) next week. We have two quarterbacks who can do it, but who are not playing at a high level right now.”
Schroeder’s first interception, on Cal’s second series, set up a three-yard run by De’Antwan Williams with 6:59 left in the first quarter. Schroeder’s second and third interceptions came on identical third-and-goal plays from the IUP six-yard line. Holloway cut in front of the receiver on the first one and wrestled the ball away from the receiver on the second.
“It was my ball all the way,” said Holloway, a redshirt senior, of the second interception. “I tucked it in, and he tried to pull it out. The receiver did a good acting job.”
Schroeder would not have a chance to throw any other passes as he was replaced by sophomore James Harris. Schroeder completed eight of 16 passes for 79 yards. Harris did not find much more success, completing five of 13 for 76 yards and no touchdowns.
“I didn’t know if he was hurt or what,” said IUP coach Curt Cignetti. “I didn’t think it mattered. They have a system, and they are going to run it.”
“I didn’t even know they changed quarterbacks,” said Indiana defensive end Shane Meisner, who deflected Schroeder’s pass that Holloway grabbed for his first interception. “I didn’t even know his number. It doesn’t matter. Our defensive backs did a great job. Our defense takes pride in what the scoreboard says.”
For as poorly as Cal’s offense played, the Vulcans were still in the game at halftime, trailing 7-0. That quickly changed when quarterback Mike Box hit Terrill Barnes for a 35-yard TD on IUP’s first drive of the second half to make it 14-0. Indiana appeared ready to put the game away on its next possession, driving to the Cal 29. But Dewey McDonald intercepted a Box pass at the 17 and raced 87 yards for a touchdown that cut the IUP lead in half with 3:12 left in the third quarter.
“That was a huge momentum changer,” Cignetti said. “It turned it into a one-score game.”
McDonald’s interception came in between long drives by Indiana that sapped the strength from Cal’s defense. The Vulcans had only five offensive plays in the third quarter, and Cignetti only threw the ball three times over the final 18:12. Williams pounded away at the Cal defense, getting 38 carries for 167 yards. He scored the game’s final touchdown on an eight-yard run with 4:18 to play.
“We haven’t fed him the ball a lot,” Cignetti. “We knew he could be a big factor. Cal hasn’t faced a back quite like him.”
If IUP was motivated for this game by anything, it would have been a stunning 18-15 loss to Cal at Adamson Stadium last year. Cal recovered an onside kick and Cody Nuzzo kicked a 30-yard field in the final seconds to win it. But Cignetti said he downplayed it.
“I didn’t talk about it all week,” he said. “I mentioned it in the pregame talk. But this is a totally different team … so it’s hard to say we owed them when half the players on our roster are new.”
Box completed nine of 13 passes for 151 yards with a TD and interception. Barnes caught six passes for 96 yards. … Matt Spegal had a 58-yard punt for Indiana, and Andrew Cerett launched a 79-yarder for Cal.