The electricity was in the air on Saturday, Sept. 19, at the Homecoming game at Tullio Field as 1,635 fans crowded in to catch a glimpse of the Mercyhurst College football team. They would not be disappointed.
The Lakers would put on a masterful performance in a 20-16 upset of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, which came into the game ranked 21st in the nation.
The upset brings the Lakers’ record to 2-2 this season.
IUP came into Erie with a 26-game winning streak in Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West opening games. In their prior meeting with Mercyhurst, they bulldozed the Lakers, 42-10.
Despite the history, the Lakers were not intimidated.
“We knew we could play with IUP because we played with a higher ranked team in Bloomsburg University. Despite the loss that game gave us the confidence that if we just minimized our mistakes we could play with anybody,” said head coach Marty Schaetzle.
Coming out of the gates, things did not look so promising for the Lakers. IUP would score on its first procession with a 31-yard touchdown pass, giving them a 7-0 lead.
“Early in the game we started off slowly on the defensive and offensive end, but after that beginning stretch, we started to exploit some opportunities that IUP was giving us,” Schaetzle said.
Ssophomore Robert Giambra would get things rolling offensively when he capped a 45-yard drive with his first career field goal from 38 yards out, closing the gap to 7-3.
The Lakers would overcome their only mistake, an interception by senior quarterback Joe Laffey, as Laffey would engineer a 66-yard touchdown drive capped by a 18-yard touchdown run by senior Ben Jennings. This score gave the Lakers a 10-7 lead which they would never relinquish for the rest of the game.
Giambra would strike again with a 33-yard field goal to put the Lakers up 13-7 going into halftime.
Things would begin to heat up for the Lakers as the crowd got more into the game.
“We got excited early in the game because it was the Homecoming game, but that eventually wore off. The crowd really gave us a lot of energy and really became part of the game and really gave us that extra edge,” Schaetzle said.
The Lakers would come out swinging in the third quarter as Laffey threw a 72-yard touchdown pass to junior Max Khuri, stretching the Laker lead to 20-7 after a Giambra extra point with 11:47 left in the third quarter.
Laffey would be a major factor throughout, setting career highs in completions (21), attempts (40) and longest completion (72 yards) during the game.
Despite a late charge by IUP in the fourth quarter that would bring the score to an uncomfortable 20-16, the Laker defense would hold strong. They forced five turnovers in the game in addition to a stand on IUP’s final drive that led them to the Laker’s 28 yard line.
Despite the sweet taste of a Homecoming victory in front of a packed stadium, the Lakers will have another tough test as they travel to Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania on Saturday, Sept. 26 at 2 p.m. to play in Lock Haven’s Homecoming game.