Cal U beats IUP in D-II football playoffs
CALIFORNIA, Pa. – Top-seeded California overcame a 17-point first half deficit to advance to the Super Region One Championship with a 44-23 victory over fifth-seeded IUP on Saturday afternoon in the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs at Adamson Stadium.
With the win, Caimproves to 11-0 overall behind. The Vulcans, which were ranked No. 6 in the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Top 25 poll of the regular season, will host third-seeded Shepherd for the Super Region One Championship on Dec. 3. The Rams, which lost in the NCAA National Championship last year, advanced to the regional final with a 40-21 victory at second-seeded and previously undefeated LIU Post on Saturday.
Junior quarterback Michael Keir broke the single-season school record for touchdown passes in the win. He finished with 274 passing yards and four touchdowns and no interceptions. Keir now holds the school record with 39 touchdown passes this year, breaking the previous mark of 36 touchdowns set by Josh Portis in 2009.
Senior Garry Brown finished with 129 receiving yards and two touchdowns on 11 catches. He now holds the outright single-season school record with 20 touchdown receptions, as he entered play tied with the mark set by A.J. Jackson in 2009. The Crimson Hawks scored on their opening three drives of the game and took a 17-0 lead on the initial play of the second quarter. Cal U turned the ball over on downs on its opening possession before going three-and-out late in the first quarter.
Early in the second quarter, the Vulcans cut the deficit to 17-7 with an eight-yard touchdown reception by Brown.
The Vulcans seized momentum in the contest on a blocked punt by sophomore Dymond Thomas following an errant snap. Both teams struggled to recover the loose ball and Cal U was eventually being awarded possession at the 12-yard line.
On the next play, sophomore Jalen Bell posted a rushing touchdown to trim the deficit to 17-14 with 5:56 left before halftime. Following a punt by the Crimson Hawks, the Vulcans executed a successful two-minute drill with Keir finding junior wide receiver Luke Smorey for a four-yard score with 19 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
Cal U stretched its lead to 28-17 by scoring on the opening drive of the third quarter. Keir found Smorey for an 18-yard gain on fourth-and-one from the IUP 25-yard line before connecting with senior tight end Paul Butler (DuBois grad) two plays later for a 1-yard touchdown with 9:08 left in the third quarter.