One man stood in the way of the Marauders on Saturday, and that man was Harlon Hill trophy winning quarterback Zach Zulli of Shippensburg University.
Zulli lived up to his reputation, as he threw for five touchdown passes in a game that saw Millersville fall by 38 points, despite a promising first half for the Marauders.
In an admirable offensive drive, Millersville was able to move the ball past the 50-yard line four times. Sophomore quarterback Connor Casey finished their opening drive off with a 22-yard pass to tight end Trenton Petrovich, resulting in a field goal.
After the Red Raiders had moved into their red zone, the Marauder defense stepped up and held them to just a missed field goal, and a turnover on downs.
To end the first quarter, Millersville drove the ball down to Shippensburg’s 10-yard line. Unable to capitalize on their successful drive, they settled for a field goal made my freshman kicker Evan Stahl; the first of his collegiate career.
In the second quarter, Zulli was able to find a rhythm after being held to just 49 yards passing by a strong Marauder defense. He threw for 158 yards with only one incomplete pass in this quarter alone.
His passing attack included a 70-yard touchdown drive that ended in a seven-yard pass to his receiver Sheldon Mayer. In an attempt to respond, Millersville entered enemy territory two more times before the end of the half, but failed to score.
Once the Red Raiders regained the ball, it was apparent that they were not content with entering halftime without scoring once more. On their own 15-yard line, Shippensburg had 55 seconds to go. After completing three passes, Zulli found an opening when he threw for a 59-yard touchdown pass to close out a miserable first half for Millersville, as they trailed 20-3.
Hoping to respond and come out with more aggressive game play, the Marauders received the opening kick off for the second half, but failed to produce any points on the drive.
Like clockwork, Shippensburg regained possession and made good use of their time. In just eight plays, they scored again on a passing touchdown by Zulli, giving them a 34-3 lead.
At the start of the fourth quarter, with their confidence dwindling, Millersville finally took advantage of an impressive drive that ended with redshirt freshman quarterback Curtis Frye finding wide receiver Dominic Sanders on the side line, who dashed 30 yards for the score.
Unfortunately, in quick fashion, Shippensburg immediately responded with the ensuing kickoff returned for an 89-yard touchdown. Their last score came from a 45-yard bullet by Zulli just one possession later, as he found Harman for the touchdown.
Despite the loss, Sanders tallied a season-high 80 yards with a touchdown on just four catches. Petrovich also had a career-high 79 yards on four catches. Casey threw 10-of-25 for 141 yards, and Frye completed 8-of-12 with his first career touchdown. Together, the quarterbacks combined just 227 yards, and totaled seven sacks among the two of them.
On top of his five touchdown passes, Shippensburg’s quarterback Zulli threw for 353 yards with 28-of-36 passes completed. There is no doubt that with Zulli at the helm, the Red Raiders were given much more of an advantage.
Millersville is still seeking its first win, which will not be easy, as they now hit the road for three consecutive games. They are matched up against nationally ranked Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and the other nationally ranked Bloomsburg.
The Marauders obviously have their work cut out for them as they try to find a rhythm and redeem their already poor season.
Fortunately, the football team is and will always possess confidence, which they hope to use as they take aim against their toughest opponents yet.