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Football struggles on both sides of the field in season opener

Millersville entered Friday’s season opening football matchup versus Bentley College with high hopes of providing newly appointed head coach Greg Colby with a milestone first victory. Instead it was the Bentley Falcons and their electric passing game under head coach Peter Yetten, who proved to be too much for the Marauders and went away with a milestone victory for Yetten with his 150th career win as a head coach.

Millersville squandered a third quarter lead and never took back control as they fell to Bentley 35-22 in Waltham, Massachusetts. The Marauders got off to a good start in the first quarter when sophomore quarterback Jamal Smith hit junior wide receiver Brad Lantz with a pass of 43 yards on Millersville’s second offensive play from scrimmage. Millersville then drove to the Falcons’ five-yard line with a first and goal opportunity, only to get stuffed on three straight runs before settling for an 18-yard field goal from junior John Banzhof.

Sophomore wide receiver Andy Downs prepares to make the catch in attempts to gain yardage for the Marauders. Photo by Jeff Conner.
Sophomore wide receiver Andy Downs prepares to make the catch in attempts to gain yardage for the Marauders. Photo by Jeff Conner.

Bentley would then take the lead in the second quarter after quarterback John White began his aerial assault on Millersville. White threw a 46-yard strike to receiver John Studley for the Falcons’ first touchdown and then set up another score later in the quarter by completing three consecutive passes of 17, 38, and 11 yards. The passes along with a balanced running attack set up a two yard touchdown run for Luis Cotto with 27 seconds remaining in the second quarter to provide the Falcons with a 14-3 cushion at halftime.

Millersville chipped into the lead on the opening drive of the second half after Smith found senior Derek Fry in the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown pass. The extra point was blocked and Millersville still trailed 14-9. The Marauders though were able to gain the lead on Bentley’s first possession of the half when Dan McClellan intercepted and returned it 42-yards for a touchdown. The score put the Marauders ahead 16-14, but it would be their last lead of the day. The Falcons scored again towards the end of the third quarter after White connected with Kyle Tuthill for a 15-yard passing touchdown to take control 21-16 at the end of the third quarter.

Bentley never looked back as they went on to score two more insurance touchdowns in the fourth quarter when White hooked up with Studley and Tuthill on passes of 18 and 6 yards. The two scores gave both receivers two touchdowns on the day and put Bentley way out in front 35-16. White finished the day 23-38 for 371 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. John Studley and Kyle Tuthill each exited with personal bests in receiving yards as Studley ended with 10 catches for 157 yards and Tuthill added 9 catches for 183 yards.

The Marauders would tack on one final touchdown for the day when backup quarterback Bill Shirk found Derek Fry for his second touchdown of the day on a 6-yard pass.

Millersville had a tough time establishing their offense on Friday allowing eight sacks and averaging only 2.4 yards per carry as a team, which especially hurt towards the goaline. Smith led all Millersville rushers with 69 yards on the ground, while also going 6-14 for 90 yards and a touchdown through the air. Last years leading rusher and newly converted receiver Brad Lantz finished with five catches for 78 yards. Lantz and Fry both have moved to receiver in hopes of adding some more depth to the position where they lost their top two players from last year due to graduation. Lantz was a running back last year and Fry was a tight end.

“Having an ex-running back in the slot as a receiver is basically like having a third running back on the field and it gives us more options.” Fry explained “I used to play receiver when I came here before I played tight end so I have the receiver experience so it was easy for me to move back out there.”

The Marauders are optimistic that with Smith’s continued development and more game experience together they will begin to flourish as a unit.

Sophomore quarterback Jamal Smith throws a pass down-field during practice on Tuesday. Photo by Jeff Conner.
Sophomore quarterback Jamal Smith throws a pass down-field during practice on Tuesday. Photo by Jeff Conner.

Apart from Friday’s offensive struggles the defensive performance could have been even more of a cause for concern.

After losing Seniors Brandon Shelton and Marcus Banks in the secondary to graduation, the Marauders will be looking to fill the void with less experienced players.

Last season Shelton tied the University record for career interceptions with 16, and Banks was the team’s leading tackler. The lack of experience showed on Friday, but growing pains are to be expected.

The Marauders have a good mix of veterans and young players, and while the secondary gave up lots of yards through the air they showed they are capable of getting to the ball and creating turnovers after coming down with two interceptions. Like the offense, members of the defense are not deterred by Friday’s loss.
“We have a lot of young kids that are going to step up, I think we’re going to have a good secondary again,” Senior defensive lineman Jarrod Linn said.

Part of the reason the Marauders remain so confident is because they are playing under a new, but well traveled head coach Greg Colby. Colby, the former defensive coordinator at Northwestern University has installed a new system and the team is taking the transition well.

“He [Colby] came in with a division one mindset which is good,” said Linn “I think the transition has been going really well, we’re doing a lot of new stuff but not too much is different.”
With five returning all-PSAC selections and a short term memory of last seasons disappointing 3-8 finish the Marauders seem poised to turn things around this year.