The Coal Miners’ Pail Trophy is back in Indiana following the IUP football team’s victory against the California (Pa.) Vulcans on Saturday afternoon at Miller Stadium.
Quarterback Quinton Maxwell (senior, business) led the Crimson Hawks’ second-half comeback, throwing for 313 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the 17–6 victory.
The win kept a trend going that has lived since 2012 of IUP winning the Coal Bowl in odd-numbered years and Cal U taking the trophy in even-numbered years, which also has resulted in the home team winning each of those matchups.
Much of the game was a defensive battle, as the Crimson Hawks did not score a point until nearly halfway through the third quarter when Duane Brown (sophomore, sport administration) caught a 60-yard touchdown pass to give IUP a 7–3 lead, one it would not relinquish for the remainder of the game.
The Crimson Hawks’ defense held Cal U to 95 passing yards, sacking quarterback Noah Mitchell four times and holding the Vulcan offense to converting only four out of 13 third downs.
In the first half, it looked like the Cal U rushing attack, spearheaded by Nelson Brown and Mitchell, could be enough to get a victory, but the Vulcans could score only three points in the first half. Those came on a first-quarter field goal by Keaton Hier, who missed another field goal attempt in the second quarter to keep the Crimson Hawks in the game despite a lackluster first half offensively.
Cal U’s Brown finished the game as the leading rusher for both teams with 114 rushing yards, combing through the IUP defense early and often.
The Crimson Hawks’ running game didn’t really get going until the second half when third-choice running back Malik Anderson (junior, kinesiology) was able to build some momentum following an apparent injury to Justice Evans (junior, business management). Anderson finished the game with 54 rushing yards to lead the IUP rushing attack.
The lack of a run game forced IUP to throw the football more than they may have liked on a windy afternoon, but Maxwell was up to the challenge, finding his favorite target Brown for both of the Crimson Hawks’ touchdowns, enough to earn Brown PSAC West Offensive Athlete of the Week honors for a second consecutive week.
Brown accrued 126 yards on four receptions, second only to JoJo Gause (senior, communications media) who had 129 yards on six receptions, enough to earn Gause the honor of being selected as the rivalry game’s most valuable player. It was the first time since 2014 that two Crimson Hawks wide receivers each accrued more than 100 receiving yards.
Brown’s pair of touchdowns were split by a Dillon Sarka (senior, math education) field goal, a rebound for the kicker following a blocked field goal try near the end of the first half.
Time of possession for both teams was split almost evenly, with the Vulcans holding the ball for 30:01 and the Crimson Hawks having possession for 29:59. Both teams were hit hard by penalties, some at crucial points in the game. Each team had 11 penalties, with Cal U’s 102 yards surpassing IUP’s 95 penalty yards.
The impressive defensive performance by the Crimson Hawks was the first game where Cal U was held without a touchdown since 2011.
The victory moved IUP to No. 16 in the AFCA Coaches’ Poll as the team continues its rebound following a disappointing stretch in 2018 where the No. 2-ranked Crimson Hawks dropped games to both Cal U and Slippery Rock.
The next matchup for IUP comes in Slippery Rock as the Crimson Hawks take on the No. 9 team in the country. Both teams enter the game unbeaten and the winner will all but secure the PSAC West title and likely a national playoff berth provided the winner’s season doesn’t collapse.
IUP lost a 30–27 nail-biter in 2018 but defeated The Rock in the two years prior to that.
The Crimson Hawks will certainly be hoping to return to the postseason for the first time since hosting a national semifinal matchup in the 2017 season.