For the second week in a row the Millersville Marauders football team failed to secure a second half lead and watched as their opponent came away with a victory. In a game marred with torrential downpours and a field covered in puddles resulting from Hurricane Hanna’s climb up the east coast, the Marauders gave up a 13-yard touchdown run with 22 seconds remaining to Slippery Rock’s running back Ryan Lehmeier. The touchdown stunned Millersville and its handful of fans who willingly braved the weather, and handed the Marauders their second straight loss.
Millersville wide receiver Derrick Bass recovered a dropped punt in the endzone to put the Marauders in front 24-21 with 7:32 left on the clock. After it seemed as though they would hang on with the win Slippery Rock mounted one final drive to set up the rushing touchdown and finish a 12-play, 73-yard drive to make the score 28-24 in favor of The Rock. The run capped off a 201-yard effort by Lehmeier and dropped Millersville to an overall record of 0-2, and still searching for their first win in the Colby era.
The Marauders led most of the game, but a few missed opportunities and penalties eventually came back to doom them. The horrid weather changed the offensive dynamic for both teams.
“Obviously playing in monsoon-like weather it made the game a little more one-dimensional” quarterback Jamal Smith explained. “But we weren’t really going to change the way we play, we’re comfortable with our running game.”
Millersville took a 3-0 lead toward the end of the first after John Banzhof slammed a 41-yard field goal through the uprights despite the downpour. A few plays prior, Millersville’s Darnell Johnson appeared to have a scored on a 17-yard touchdown run, but the play was called back due to a holding call. The Marauders failed to convert a first down and had to settle for a field goal.
Millersville would add to their lead in the second quarter when they forced an intentional grounding call on special teams. The Marauders got to the punter during a botched snap, forcing a desperation throw that resulted in the penalty. The play left them with a first down on the Slippery Rock 39-yard line. After a 17-yard run by sophomore quarterback Jamal Smith and a short gain by freshman running back Matthew Booker, Smith tossed a short screen pass to the left and into the flat to receiver Brad Lantz who followed his blockers for 18 yards and a touchdown to provide a 10-0 lead.
The Rock came firing right back. A 15-yard pass interference call and another missed opportunity at a chance to recover a fumble set up a 12-yard touchdown run by Lehmeier to pull Slippery Rock within three points.
Millersville rebounded and added to their lead with 1:36 left in the half when wide receiver Andy Tischbein followed a wall of blockers and returned a punt 47 yards down the right sideline for a score to put Millersville up by ten at halftime.
The Marauders began the second half with a promising opening drive on offense, but once they got within The Rock’s 40-yard line, the drive sputtered and they were forced to punt. Slippery Rock took over at their own 20-yard line after a touchback. Quarterback Brandon Frohnapple would complete three passes of over ten yards, coupling with a steady ground attack, set up a 5-yard play action pass to the left corner of the end zone.
The touchdown pass still left Millersville ahead by a field goal, 17-14.
Slippery Rock scored once again and came crawling back into the lead with a drive that stretched from the end of the third quarter into the beginning of the fourth and ended with another play action pass to the back left corner of the end zone. It was the second time of the day in which the play action would draw the safeties in towards the goalline allowing the receiver to sneak behind for the touchdown grab and thus The Rock regained control with a 21-17 lead.
Millersville would gain the lead one last time on Bass’s fumble recovery before Slippery Rock would score the go-ahead touchdown on a drive in which they had zero timeouts and fumbled, yet they were still able to recover and get the winning score.
The Marauders continued to show the ability to get to the ball quickly on defense again although they were unable to capitalize with dropped interceptions and an inability to recover forced fumbles. Strong individual efforts by Jerrod Bowling who led the team with 16 tackles kept the Marauders in the game. Dan McClellan added 10 tackles and a forced fumble, and Matt Harmon had 10 tackles of his own. Still, the defense allowed just over 400 yards of offense in what was supposed to be mostly one dimensional, run-driven game. Millersville also failed to put the game away by failing to stop The Rock on three third down attempts on their final drive.
The special teams, especially kicker/punter John Banzhof, played very well for Millersville. Banzhof converted his only field attempt and landed five punts inside the 20-yard line while still averaging 42.6 yards a punt. Freshman running back Matthew Booker led all Marauder rushers with 78 yards and 6.5 yards per carry. Darnell Johnson added 54 yards on the ground and Jamal Smith also contributed 41 yards. Smith had a tough day passing, although one would expect most to struggle in the downpour, as he was 4-10 for only 22 yards with one touchdown. The Marauders have only three offensive touchdowns in their two games. Millersville’s offense also struggled to sustain drives going 2 of 13 on third downs, and they only managed eight first downs.
Despite the heartbreaking loss, Millersville was still able to take many positives from the game in hopes to show more consistency against IUP next weekend.
“We can’t have anymore three and outs.” Smith said. “We could have converted on third down to run out the clock when Slippery Rock didn’t have any timeouts.”
Millersville is not ready to dwell on the last game. They have put it behind them and continue to take the schedule one day at a time. “IUP is a really good team and they will be a really good test for us,” explained defensive lineman Jarrod Linn.