ERIE, Pa. (Oct. 23) – After committing four turnovers and allowing 17-straight points in the second half, the No. 3 California University of Pennsylvania football suffered a 31-21 upset loss at Mercyhurst on Saturday afternoon in Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) West play at Tullio Field.
With the loss, the Vulcans fall to 7-1 overall and into a tie with the Lakers for first place in the divisional standings behind a 4-1 mark in league play. The loss snaps Cal U’s 24-game winning streak in PSAC West play and it also is the first loss to an unranked opponent since September 2006. Meanwhile, Mercyhurst improves to 6-2 overall this season after totaling only four victories last year.
In his first career start, true freshman running back Trey Johnson (Rochester, Pa./Rochester) finished with 122 yards on 19 carries (6.4 yards per carry). A dynamic punt returner this season, he did most of his work in the first half when he totaled 116 yards on the ground behind a season-long 52-yard scamper.
Senior wide receiver Terrance Moore (Key West, Fla./Key West/Mesa C.C.) posted his fourth career 100-yard game in the loss. He finished with a season-high 152 receiving yards and two touchdowns on six receptions.
After losing a fumble on the game’s opening kickoff, the Vulcans forced a three-and-out deep in their territory and the Lakers’ 39-yard field goal attempt fell short after hitting the right upright. After the teams battled for field position, Cal U started its second offensive drive at its own 7-yard line before Trey Johnson shifted the field with a 52-yard scamper. The following play, senior quarterback Josh Portis (Woodland Hills, Calif./William H. Taft/Maryland) connected with Moore for a 34-yard score down the middle of the field with 2:48 left in the first quarter.
Portis finished the game with 212 passing yards and three touchdowns on 13-of-29 attempts. He also threw a pair of interceptions and was sacked four times in the loss.
On its first drive of the second quarter, Cal U moved the ball across midfield before Portis was intercepted near the red zone. The Lakers later evened the score at 7-7 with 5:02 left in the first half when junior Travis Rearick found redshirt freshman Terrance Coon down the sideline for an 80-yard touchdown. On the ensuing drive, Portis completed a pass to Moore before Mercyhurst forced and recovered a fumble in Cal U territory. The Lakers capitalized on the turnover on the first play of the drive when Rearick completed a 42-yard touchdown pass to junior Trevor Kennedy.
The Vulcans then evened the score in the final minute of the first half when Portis found an open RJ Thomas in the end zone after Portis threatened to scramble on the play. The scoring drive was extended on a pair of fourth-down conversions. Facing a fourth-and-five at the Mercyhurst 43-yard line, the Lakers were flagged for an offside penalty that resulted in a Cal U first down. Portis later found Moore for a 25-yard completion on a fourth-and-nine.
Following halftime, Mercyhurst marched 61 yards on the opening kickoff for a scoring drive capped with a 4-yard touchdown pass by Rearick, 21-14. After the Vulcans were forced into a three-and-out on the next drive, the Lakers expanded their lead to 24-14 following a 19-yard field goal with 5:58 left in the third quarter. The drive appeared to be over on the previous play when Cal U intercepted a pass in the end zone, but the turnover was negated due to an offside penalty.
The Vulcans looked to regain momentum late in the third when senior defensive back Brandon Echols recovered a fumble on a punt; however, Portis was intercepted two players later at the Mercyhurst 30-yard line. The Lakers added to its lead when Rearick found Kennedy for his second touchdown reception of the game with 14:22 remaining in the game.
The teams traded field position for most of the fourth quarter before the Vulcans struck for a 56-yard touchdown from Portis to Moore with 4:23 left, 31-21. Cal U was able to get the ball back with 2:32 remaining after forcing a three-and-out, but turned the ball over on downs after Portis was sacked on a fourth-and-nine.
Defensively, junior linebacker Brett Diamond (Chesterfield, Va./Matoaca) led the Vulcans with a season- and career-high 10 tackles (seven solo). He also collected the team’s only sack. Freshman defensive back Jeff Parrish (Monroeville, Pa./Gateway) registered eight stops (four solo) while seeing his most significant action of the season. Fellow defensive backs Shawn Anderson (Pittsburgh, Pa./Penn Hills) and Tommie Campbell (Aliquippa, Pa./Aliquippa/Edinboro) each added five tackles.
Cal U returns to action on Saturday, Oct. 30, when it hosts rival IUP in the second-annual Coal Bowl at 1 p.m. The game will broadcast live on Pittsburgh CW with the weekly coach’s show broadcasting at 12 p.m. on Pittsburgh CW. Fans can also follow the game on-line through live stats, watch it live on ESPN3.com and America One (formerly B2 Networks) and listen live on WCAL (91.9 FM).
Notes: The Vulcans allowed their first second-half touchdown since the season-opener, a span covering six games and 12 quarters … Cal U lost the time of possession battle for only the second time this season (35:22-24:38) … The Vulcans had committed only six turnovers in the first six games this season prior to Saturday … Cal U also had its 17-game winning streak on the road against PSAC West opponents snapped at Tullio Field