Something about the California Vulcans seems to bring out the best in IUP’s Terrell Holloway.
In Saturday’s 20-7 win over the Vulcans, the Penn Hills native intercepted three passes, two of which came in the end zone, to help the Crimson Hawks preserve their biggest regular-season win in years.
Here’s what Holloway did in three previous meetings against California:
• In 2012, he recorded six tackles, forced a fumble and recovered a fumble in a 26-24 loss.
• In 2011, he recorded nine tackles, including one for loss, and recovered a fumble in a 28-10 defeat.
• In 2010, he blocked a punt, which he recovered for a touchdown, and recorded one tackle in an 18-15 overtime loss.
“It’s just in my blood,” Holloway said. “I love to show up in big games. It’s not that I don’t when we play teams that we are quote-unquote better than, it’s just that when the competition is better than me or as good as me, I want to show them who is the best.”
Holloway added three tackles, including one for loss, to spearhead a defense that hasn’t allowed a point since the opening week of the season.
Holloway considers himself a leader, and it’s something he takes seriously.
“I just want to help other players get better,” he said. “I want to be that spark to the point where they see me (playing) with no fear or that when I make a mistake, I don’t look back. I want them to do that, too.”
Coach Curt Cignetti has taken notice.
“Terrell played a great football game,” he said. “He’s been a great leader.
“He’s just a guy who we’ve been able to count on, from the first day of camp until now. I’m really happy for him.”
EARNING IT: Cignetti said he planned on giving California a steady dose of De’Antwan “Rocket” Williams. So he gave the ball to his senior running back over and over and over.
Thirty-eight times in all.
Williams, a former transfer from Rutgers, rushed for a game-high 167 yards and scored two touchdowns on 38 carries against the Vulcans, who entered the game with one of the top defenses in the country. He was named the Coal Bowl MVP for his efforts.
“I thought De’Antwan could be a big factor in this game because they hadn’t faced a back like him, and they don’t have one on their team quite like him,” Cignetti said. “I knew they hadn’t seen a guy with his quickness yet. I’m not sure I was prepared to give him the ball 38 times, but I was prepared for him to carry the load.”
Williams said he relished the opportunity to be the one to drive head-first into the California defense.
“It was tough,” he said. “They were flowing to the ball. We just had to execute our plays.”
The 167 yards is a career high for Williams, surpassing his previous best of 158, set last year against Slippery Rock.
And as all good running backs do, Williams praised his offensive line.
“The O-line was on point today, just like every week,” he said. “I have faith in any lineman who touches the field, so I just go do what the coaches tell me to do.”
SWEET REVENGE: Cignetti said he chose not to speak to his team this week about last year’s painful loss to the Vulcans because it really had no relevance.
“This year’s team is a totally different team than last year’s team,” he said. “I mean, look how many new guys we have. … So it’s hard to say ‘We owe them’ throughout the week and use that for motivation when half of these guys weren’t even on last year’s team.”
That said, defensive end Shane Meisner said it was hard to put last year’s setback behind them.
“As much as we tried to forget about it, it was hard to get it out of the back of our minds,” said Meisner, who had three tackles and a pass defensed, which Holloway intercepted. “(Coach) didn’t say anything about it, but I know the guys who were on the team last year, for them, we wanted to get a little revenge in this game.”
That’s why Saturday’s win was all the more sweet for IUP.
“We had a bitter taste in our mouths coming into this game from last year,” Meisner said. “So we wanted to put it to them this year, and we did.”
NOTES: The IUP defense has not allowed a point in its last 12 quarters. … IUP has not shut out three opponents in a row since 1958. … Carl Fleming led the Crimson Hawks with 12 total tackles. … Defensive lineman Larry Gooden made his first appearance of the season and recorded two tackles. He missed the first three games with a severe knee injury that required surgery. … California failed in its bid to become the first team in the modern era (post-World War II) to beat IUP seven straight years. … IUP was penalized eight times for 112 yards, but had two others, for false start and illegal substitution, taken away when the line judge convinced the referee that the original ruling was wrong.