Story and photo courtesy of Shippensburg Athletics
Junior quarterback Zach Zulli completed a career-high 32 passes for 403 yards and five touchdowns in three quarters of play on Saturday afternoon as the No. 21-ranked Shippensburg University football team blew past PSAC West foe Lock Haven, 49-6, from Hubert Jack Stadium to extend the program’s winning streak to nine games.
The Raiders (5-0) posted a stellar effort on both sides of the ball, as the defensive unit collected nine tackles for loss, including four sacks, in holding the Bald Eagles (0-5) to 28 yards rushing on 38 carries. The SU defense has now totaled 35 tackles for loss over the last three games.
The offense was sharp from the first whistle, as Zulli completed his first 11 passes of the game, two short of tying the school record for consecutive completions (Mark Beans vs. Edinboro in 1983). Zulli’s 32 completions were seven short of tying Beans’ school record 39 set in the same game.
Saturday was the second game this season in which Zulli has surpassed 400 yards passing, with his 403-yard effort the third-highest single-game total in school history. Perhaps most impressive of Saturday’s offensive display was that Shippensburg never punted and only twice faced fourth down.
On Shippensburg’s second offensive play of the game and pinned back at its own 11-yard-line, Zulli began the day in fashion with an 89-yard touchdown strike to senior wide receiver Bryan Barley, marking the fourth-longest pass play in school history. Barley would finish the day with seven catches for a career-high 145 yards – including 120 in the first quarter alone.
Back at their own 11-yard-line to start their next possession, the Raiders this time embarked on a more traditional 89-yard scoring drive to extend their lead to 14-0. The offense methodically moved down the field in 10 plays, capping off the drive with a 27-yard strike from Zulli to senior Jacob Baskerville. Zulli finished the first quarter 9-for-9 passing for 168 yards and two touchdowns.
Lock Haven nearly shifted the momentum in the beginning of the second quarter when it recovered a Shippensburg fumble on the SU 6-yard-line. The Raiders stopped LHU on first and second down before back-to-back 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalties pushed the Bald Eagles back to the 33-yard-line for third and goal. Noah Heimer’s 45-yard field goal attempt two plays later went wide right as SU escaped the turnover deep in their own territory without giving up any points.
The Raiders would not be so lucky on their next possession – which ended with a Zulli interception on third-and-10 that again set Lock Haven up in SU territory, this time at the 35-yard-line. Three plays later, a 14-yard touchdown pass from LHU quarterback Jarrett Kratzer to Jesse Hoover put the Bald Eagles within eight, down 14-6.
Shippensburg answered immediately, however, as senior Kevin Herod caught three passes for 28 yards over an eight-play drive that finished with the fullback catching a six-yard touchdown toss from Zulli to extend the Raiders lead to 21-6. Junior defensive end Jake Metz tipped a pass to himself for his second interception on LHU’s ensuing possession, giving Shippensburg the ball at the Lock Haven 33-yard-line.
An 18-yard completion to senior running back Mike Frenette followed by an eight-yard toss to Baskerville brought Shippensburg within the LHU 10-yard-line. Four players later, on fourth-and-five from the 10-yard-line with just over a minute left in the first half, Zulli found sophomore wide receiver Sheldon Mayer for the score to put Shippensburg up 28-6.
On their second possession of the second half, the Raiders took to the ground with five runs during the nine-play, 55-yard scoring drive capped off with a four-yard Frenette touchdown rush. The Raiders’ again found paydirt on their next possession – a seven-play march that ended with Zulli’s fifth touchdown pass of the day, a six-yarder to sophomore wide receiver Kyle Kush for his first career score, to put Shippensburg ahead 42-6.
With the starters resting for nearly the entirety of the fourth quarter, the Raiders finished off the scoring late in the fourth quarter when redshirt-freshman defensive lineman Kurt Walker scooped up a failed Kratzer lateral pass and returned it 80 yards to the house for SU’s third defensive score in five games this season.
Reigning PSAC East Defensive Player of the Week senior Cody Fleming and sophomore Brian Sourber led the Raiders in tackles with eight each from their linebacking spots.
With the loss, Lock Haven set the all-time Division II record for consecutive losses with 47.
Shippensburg will host LIU Post at 1 p.m. Saturday on Homecoming from SU Student Association Field at Seth Grove Stadium.