MU football falls to Division II No. 1 IUP

Bernard Garwig, Sports editor

The Mercyhurst Lakers football team dropped its second straight in a loss against the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Crimson Hawks.  The Nov. 4 Senior Day saw the No. 1 ranked Crimson Hawks (9-0) sweep Tullio Field and a scoreless second half for the Lakers.  The first quarter saw minimal offensive productivity from the Lakers and the Crimson Hawks.  Mercyhurst redshirt sophomore quarterback Doug Altavilla was intercepted on the Lakers’ inaugural drive after his Laker target’s hands failed to capture the ball at the Crimson Hawk’s 48-yard line.  Despite this, the Crimson Hawks only managed to advance little more than 20 yards from midfield in their subsequent drive.

Two penalties and a series of incompletions by Crimson Hawk quarterback Lenny Williams resulted in the Crimson Hawks punting.  Following drives by both teams resulted in no points on the board within the time frame.  The Lakers, however, extended their drive off a Williams interception into the second quarter.  Laker freshman kicker Mark Shafer put the Lakers on the board with a 35-yard field goal attempt.  Two drives later, the Crimson Hawks answered with a touchdown, swooping above the Lakers 7-3.  Not to be outdone, the Lakers responded the next drive with a touchdown of their own.  Altavilla connected with senior wide receiver Brad Novak on a 14-yard pass in the endzone.

After two Laker false starts, Shafer kicked the extra point to culminate the 77-yard drive.  The half would end with the Lakers up 10-7 after the Crimson Hawks missed their field goal attempt on their last drive.  Unfortunately, the second quarter would be the last time the Lakers added to their tally.  The Crimson Hawks opened up the second half, scoring a touchdown on their first drive of the third quarter with a strong series of rushes.  The Lakers’ offense then faced a fierce Crimson Hawk defense, which forced a safety after Altavilla fumbled and recovered in the end zone.  Not giving the Lakers a break, the Crimson Hawks slowly marched down the field in an 8:33, 60-yard drive.

This drive, the longest of the game, culminated in touchdown pass by Crimson Hawk quarterback Williams, making the score 23-10.  The 16-point stretch that the Crimson Hawks wove together in the third quarter ultimately proved to be the undoing of the Lakers.  The fourth quarter saw Altavilla intercepted once again. With this, the Crimson Hawks returned to Laker territory, finishing off with another field goal.  Redshirt junior Ram Finnegan came in for the Lakers’ third drive of the quarter, but a fumble by Finnegan resulted in a Crimson Hawk recovery for a touchdown.  The Crimson Hawks missed their extra point, but the Lakers weren’t able to convert on their last drive of the game, ending with a final of 36-10.

“We fought hard all game,” said Novak after the game. “But we just made some mistakes that we had trouble rebounding from.”  Novak is near the end of his time at Mercyhurst, but he has a lot to show for it. Novak currently boasts a career 1,658 yards receiving and 15 touchdowns.  “Overall, nothing but positives,” said Novak of his time as a Laker. “I’ve made some lifelong friends playing football for Mercyhurst, and learned a lot about being disciplined as a player and as a person.”

Coming off of the win, the Crimson Hawks remain perched atop the Division II rankings. The Lakers (4-6, 3-4 PSAC) still have one game left to play, ending the 2017 season against Lock Haven, which is currently 2-8.