Austin Heiser (center) and Steve Sweeney (right) take the field for a rainy homecoming game against Shepherd. Photo courtesy of Millersville Athletics
Going into halftime of a cold and rainy homecoming football game, Millersville football found themselves in a tied contest with the third-ranked team in the PSAC East, the Shepherd University Rams.
Millersville got the scoring started with a 28-yard field goal from kicker Trent McDowell to give the Marauders an early 3-0 lead. The defense was the theme of the first half on both sides, and it wasn’t until the final drive in the second half that Shepherd would answer with their own field goal, tying the game at three after 30 minutes of play.
After a quick second-half strike to put the Marauders ahead 10-3, the high-powered Rams offense found their legs early in the third quarter, scoring 16 unanswered points. With starting quarterback Robert Footman Jr. unavailable, freshman Ryan Zeltt made his first collegiate start for Millersville. Zeltt would complete 15 passes for 85 yards and an interception. The freshman showed composure and confidence in the pocket throughout his first start.
Millersville found themselves in a 19-10 hole entering the final 15 minutes of play before Jahiem Morris added to his career day with a burst through the hole for a 24-yard rushing touchdown, bringing the Marauders within a two. A fourth-quarter strip sack would prove to be the crushing blow, as the Rams would lead 26-17 with just under six minutes left to play. Shepherd would find the endzone one more time that afternoon on their way to a 33-17 win over Millersville.
With an unproven quarterback at the helm, Millersville head coach J.C. Morgan relied heavily on the rushing attack from Jahiem Morris. Morris had missed the previous two games with an injury but came back strong against the Rams. The redshirt junior would carry the ball 24 times for a career-high 229 yards on his way to breaking school records. Morris became the first Marauder since 2008 to rush for over 200 yards in a single game in Saturday’s loss to Shepherd.
“My mind, he’s one of the top (running backs). I don’t know who I’d take over him in the PSAC,” said Millersville coach J.C. Morgan.
However, costly turnovers hurt the Marauders yet again down the stretch, as Shephard was able to turn a blocked punt and a strip sack into 14 game-deciding points. Over the past three games, the Marauders have turned the ball over a total of 10 times, losing all of the contests in that span.
“You don’t want the turnovers, but you also have to focus on the things that are leading to the turnovers. That’s where we have to get back to work, get on the film and come together as a staff and shore them up. Get better for next week,” Morgan said. Looking ahead, the Marauders will try to bounce back as they go to Seth Grove Stadium for an inner conference match against the struggling Shippensburg Raiders on Saturday, Oct. 21.