Box opens up passing game as IUP shuts out Clarion, 45-0
Published: Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 30, 2012 13:10
The Crimson Hawks have established a reputation as one of the most productive rushing teams in all of Division II football, but it was quarterback Mike Box and the passing attack that helped IUP improve to 8-1 Saturday.
Finding success through the air, the Hawks had little trouble shutting out Clarion en route to a 45-0 victory.
Box, a redshirt junior who transferred from the University of Connecticut, helped lead IUP’s dominant offense, which gained 23 first downs and accounted for 477 yards against Clarion. With just one incomplete pass on the day, he engineered five scoring drives before being relieved by senior Pat Smith, throwing for two and running for another.
While Box and Smith combined to throw for 272 yards and three touchdowns, the Crimson Hawks’ signature running game was also in full swing.
Senior Harvie Tuck, who is IUP’s second all-time leading rusher, gained 97 yards and a touchdown. Tuck’s complement, De’Antwan Williams, had 99 yards on just 13 carries—one of which went for a score.
Tuck, who topped the 1,500-yard mark on the ground, acknowledged that, after so many run-heavy victories, the Hawks were finally able to open up their passing game.
“It felt good to win, just trying to make the playoffs,” Tuck said. “The key was the passing game. Our
wideouts were physically better and we were able to establish the pass.”
Head Coach Curt Cignetti expressed confidence in the Hawks’ passing game early in the week, noting that IUP would be ready to put the ball in the air when it needed to. In addition to Box, who has garnered support from Cignetti on a handful of occasions, receivers Terrill Barnes, Pat Brewer and Anthony Meriwether each had a touchdown.
From the start of Saturday’s contest, IUP seemed to have a significant edge as a result of its explosive offense. On a bootleg pass late in the first quarter, Box found Meriwether for a 23-yard touchdown, then eluded several defenders on a 22-yard scramble into the endzone in the second quarter. The scoring continued in the first half with a 40-yard field goal by Brett Ullman.
Late in the first half, quarterback Ben Fiscus helped put Clarion in scoring range, but an interception by senior Marvens Toussaint in the red-zone put IUP back in possession. Later in the game, a fumble by Tuck gave the Golden Eagles a chance to get on the scoreboard, but another pick by Toussaint at the five-yard line maintained IUP’s shutout.
Without an injured Johnny Franco at safety, the Hawks’ defense still appeared stout, forcing three turnovers and limiting Clarion to just two conversions on 11 third-down situations.
Taking advantage of a productive linebacker corps and defensive line within the red-zone—one that includes Carl Thornton, who notched five tackles and a sack—IUP kept its opponent off the scoreboard.
The Crimson Hawks will also benefit from the loss California suffered at the hands of Slippery Rock, 28-26.