IUP football is back.
On Saturday afternoon, Miller Stadium brought an enthusiastic and energetic atmosphere that had been long missed since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
IUP, led by head coach Paul Tortorella, defeated Kutztown this past weekend by a score of 29-26.
After almost two years, the IUP football team took the field once again.
Loyal fans, community members and the campus population, along with many others, proudly cheered their team on as the 2021 Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) football season kicked off for the Crimson Hawks.
The Crimson Hawks football team delivered and was victorious.
When the game got close, the Hawks did not panic.
“We just continued to stick to our game plan on all three phases of the game,” Tortorella said.
IUP was led by a new starting quarterback, Javon Davis (sophomore, math education and accounting).
Davis was sharp on that day and completed 19 of 29 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns.
Big play wide receiver, Duane Brown (junior, sport administration), went for 10 catches for 131 yards and a touchdown.
His longest reception of the day was 33 yards.
Tortorella expected a big day from Brown.
“Absolutely, he is a big-time playmaker, so we need to get him the ball in a lot of different ways,” Tortorella said.
The Kutztown Golden Bears pulled within three points at one point and time. The game was extremely close and looked as if it could go either way.
“We just continued to rotate our defensive linemen to keep a fresh pass rush and did a great job in coverage,” Tortorella said.
IUP’s biggest play of the game came from the defensive line unit.
With a little over six minutes left in the game, the Hawks held a 22-19 lead.
The Golden Bears began their offensive drive in an attempt to tie the game.
On third down, IUP defensive lineman Vaughn Wallace (junior, school of continuing education) tipped a Kutztown pass that was then intercepted by teammate and fellow defensive lineman Raunya Mitchell (junior, criminology).
The Hawks returned the interception to the house, 26 yards for a touchdown.
The splash play helped to ensure an IUP season opening football win.
Kutztown mounted a late fourth quarter comeback push that fell short as the IUP defense finished the game strongly.
The Crimson Hawks totaled 298 offensive yards on that afternoon; 204 yards came through the air, and 98 yards on the ground.
The team also impressively converted on all three of its fourth downs.
Kutztown played a strong game offensively in the loss. The team totaled over 479 yards of offense.
Tortorella was pleased with the win.
“Proud of the resiliency we showed throughout the game,” Tortorella said.
This was the fourth straight season-opening win for Tortorella. He is now 6-2 all-time against the top 25 teams. The Crimson Hawks are 36-9 against teams from the PSAC East since 2000. IUP dealt with COVID-19 protocols and had to limit four assistant coaches from participating in Saturday's win.
After its 29-26 win over a ranked Kutztown squad, the IUP football program moved up in both the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) and D2Football.com Division II top 25 polls.
The Crimson Hawks moved up three spots to No. 14 in the AFCA rankings and one spot to No. 19 in the media poll.
Tortorella and his Crimson Hawks are now 1-0. They will quickly move on and begin preparing for their week two home matchup against Shepard University this Saturday at 2 p.m.
This week will include hall of fame game festivities.
IUP has never won against the Shepard program and will be looking to change that this coming weekend.
The last time the two teams met, IUP suffered a heartbreaking 31-27 playoff loss in 2019.