During his career at Apollo-Ridge High School, Duane Brown aptly earned the nickname “Touchdown Brown.”
That should be expected when you score 88 touchdowns in only four years.
Now that he is a key member of the IUP offense, the nickname seems to still fit.
Brown, a 6-foot, 180-pound wide receiver/running back/punt returner, scored two of his team’s three touchdowns Saturday,
lifting IUP to a 24-13 win over New Haven (Conn.) in the 2019 season opener.
“He’s a playmaker when he has the ball in his hands,” said IUP coach Paul Tortorella.
Brown caught a 47-yard touchdown pass from Quinton Maxwell on the Crimson Hawks’ second offense play of the game, putting IUP ahead 7-0. Then in the fourth quarter, when New Haven had cut IUP’s lead to four points, he iced the win with a two-yard touchdown run.
“I could have done some more things right,” Brown said, “but to get those two (touchdowns) meant a lot because I did what I could do to help the team.”
Brown’s effort on the second touchdown was particularly impressive, although it had his coaches feeling mixed emotions. He took the handoff from Maxwell and was supposed to go up the middle, but he realized there was no room there and bounced to the outside where two New Haven defenders got a hand on him, but he kept his balance and made it to the end zone.
“It was an inside zone, and we’re not allowed to bounce (outside),” Brown said with a grin. “So I knew if I did it, I would have to score or else coach was going (to be mad). I had to get in there.”
Tortorella said sometimes mistakes work out in your favor.
“He shouldn’t have bounced it,” he said. “I’m not going to say there was nothing inside, but he took a chance. He took the road less traveled, so to speak. He made some guys miss him, and not many guys can do that.”
Brown had another big play that, sadly, a penalty erased.
Four plays after his touchdown reception from Maxwell, Brown caught a New Haven punt and slashed through the Chargers’ coverage team for a 40-yard gain to the New Haven 21-yard line. But an illegal block penalty on IUP linebacker Branden Myers near midfield wiped it away.
The next time the Chargers had to punt, they kicked it out of bounds rather than let Brown try again.
“You know,” Tortorella said, “he’s dangerous.”
Brown’s season debut was his first real game action in 17 months. The last time he was on the field was Dec. 9, 2017, when the Crimson Hawks lost to West Florida in the NCAA Division II semifinals during his true freshman season. He had a solid season as IUP’s third running back, gaining 500 yards on 96 carries and scoring six touchdowns, but last season Brown was academically ineligible and had to sit out the year.
He was switched to wide receiver during spring drills in April and earned himself a starting job. His return to the field went about as expected. Brown lived up to his nickname, and the Crimson Hawks won the game.
But Brown said he’s not the star of the show. His big plays just show that there are so many weapons on IUP’s offense that everyone should benefit.
“We’ve got so many people on our offense who can make plays,” Brown said. “It’s not always going to be me. They’ve got to worry about all of us.”
IUP (1-0) visits Millersville on Saturday. The Marauders (1-0) opened their season by beating Pace (N.Y.), 21-20.