IUP FOOTBALL: Hawks show strengths, weaknesses in scrimmage
All things considered, IUP’s scrimmage Thursday night wasn’t that bad. In fact, there were some good plays and impressive performances.
But at first blush, it’s clear the Crimson Hawks have a long way to go — especially when they have the ball.
The IUP defense predictably was dominant, and the offense failed to find a rhythm. Some of the projected starters and contributors did not play because of injuries, and the whole thing ended up being a ragged exhibition in front of about 100 fans at Frank Cignetti Field.
Fourth-year coach Curt Cignetti wasn’t complaining when it was over. It was just hard for him to adequately judge what he saw.
“If we had to get ready to play a game, and if we had to gameplan, I think offensively right now we could probably get by and be OK,” he said. “But it sure would be nice to get some guys healthy and have a quarterback separate himself.”
The IUP offense operated Thursday night with only two real tailbacks and four-fifths of its offensive line, thanks to injuries that have depleted the depth chart in the first week of preseason camp. Consequently, the three IUP quarterbacks were forced to put the ball in the air, with mixed results.
Indiana High School graduate Logan Weaver, who started the game with the first-team offense, completed 15 of 25 passes, including the game’s only touchdown, a pretty 47-yard spiral to true freshman Tristan Davis. Redshirt freshman Eddie Stockett was in next, and he ended up 14 of 29, and Illinois transfer Chase Haslett was 12 of 18.
The three QBs rotated in and out and they all got time with the first-team offense. But with so many expected contributors sitting out the game — running backs Izzy Green, Donte Harrell, Chris Temple, Luigi Lista-Brinza and Shannon Jackson, wide receivers Sean McVay and Miles Williamson, and guard Ethan Cooper among them — it was hard for any of the quarterbacks to really find their stride.
Consequently, Cignetti was unable to say if any of the three has been able to get a hand on the starting job yet.
“It would be hard for me to say until I see the tape,” he said. “I think coming into the scrimmage, they all had done some good things and they all had some good days and some bad days. (Tonight) they all made a couple plays and they all made a couple mistakes. So we’re gonna really have to look at this scrimmage tape real close. We’re gonna have one more scrimmage before the first game and eventually we’ll have to make a decision. But right now, I’m not gonna make a decision until we have a clear-cut decision to make.”
The pass-heavy game plan was a good thing for the deep and young corps of receivers. Davis (5 catches, 118 yards) and fellow freshman Walt Pegues (6-83) led the way, and tight end Brock DeCiccio, a transfer from Wisconsin, hauled in 5 catches for 109 yards. In all, 13 players caught passes: six receivers, four tight ends and three running backs.
“I think we’ve got some playmakers on offense,” Cignetti said. “Brock DeCiccio is a real weapon at tight end, and the freshman (Pegues) is a really good football player and we’ll try to get him the ball.”
But for as many good performances the IUP offense had in the scrimmage, it also had its faults. It was called for 11 penalties, three of which wiped out long gains in the passing game, and there were several bad snaps in the shotgun.
“Offensively, we just had too many undisciplined penalties: false starts, holding, offensive linemen down field, shotgun snap problems,” Cignetti said. “It was really an up and down scrimmage for the offense. Way, way, way, way too many penalties. We’re gonna have to clean that up.”
Otherwise, the night served as a showcase for the Crimson Hawks’ defense.
In addition to holding the offense to just one touchdown, the defense recorded five sacks: By Shane Meisner, Alexander Berdahl, Waylon Fink, Dorian Lane and Mason Tortorice. Jemal Averette recovered a fumble.
With a handful of starters coming back, Cignetti knew his defense would be pretty good. But with the contributions of newcomers like transfers Karon Gibson and Bryce Gilbert and freshmen Averette, Turner, Chris Doe, Takhi Turner and Justin Weldon, there’s reason to think this defense could be something special.
“I feel really good about where we’re at on defense,” Cignetti said. “I think we’ve got a chance to be really good. People are gonna have a hard time running the ball on us. I think this is the best front-six we’ve had since I’ve been here. I think we have the chance to have an outstanding defense.”
Kicker Brett Ullman made 2 of 4 field goals. He was good from 26 and 28 yards, and missed from 25 and 39. He made his lone extra-point try.
EDITOR'S NOTE (5:27 p.m.): This story was changed to correct passing statistics for the three quarterbacks.