Oct. 23, 2010

Courtesy of Mercyhurst Athletics

ERIE, Pa. -
It was an unforgettable afternoon at Tullio Field for the Lakers.

Mercyhurst posted its biggest win in program history with a 31-21 upset over No. 3 California (Pa.), snapping the Vulcans' 24-game winning streak against PSAC West opponents and handing the five-time defending divisional champion its first loss of the season.

The Lakers (6-2, 4-1 PSAC West) now move into a tie with Cal (7-1, 4-1 PSAC West) in the Western Division standings. With just two divisional games remaining, Mercyhurst is poised to make a run at the PSAC Championship game on Nov. 13 when the winner of the Western Division hosts the Eastern Division winner in the State Championship game.

Mercyhurst powered past the Vulcans thanks to a tenacious defense that forced four turnovers - two fumbles and two interceptions - while limiting the leagues top-ranked and the nations 21st-ranked offense to just 328 yards, just over 100 yards below their season average (436.14).

Offensively, the Lakers turned two of Californias miscues into touchdowns and sustained several long scoring drives to help earn a nearly 11-minute advantage in time of possession. Mercyhurst collected 394 yards of total offense against the nations second-best defensive unit that allowed opponents 215.14 yards per game heading into todays contest. The 31 points against California is the second-highest by an opponent this season and the most by a PSAC West team since Cal beat Clarion last season by a 35-31 count in September.

Despite California scoring first near the end of the opening quarter, it was the Laker defense that set the tone for the game.

On the opening kickoff, Cals Tommie Campbell fumbled at the Vulcans 28-yardline where the Lakers Tim Herbener pounced on the loose ball. Five plays later, Steven Wakefields 39-yard field goal had the distance but missed after hitting the right side of the north endzone goal post.

From there the two teams traded punts before Cals Josh Portis connected with Terrance Moore for a 34-yard touchdown that capped off a three-play, 97-yard drive that took just 1 minute, 18 seconds.

On Cals next drive, the Vulcans were threatening to add to their 7-0 lead before Julius McCormick jumped the wide receivers route and picked off Portis at the Mercyhurst 27-yardline.

The Lakers were unable to capitalize on the turnover but the defense again took control, holding Cal to four plays before forcing the Vulcans to punt.

Mercyhurst finally got on the board in the second quarter behind touchdowns in back-to-back possessions. The first touchdown came via an 80-yard bomb from Travis Rearick to Terrence Coon. Coon, who evaded a trio of Vulcan tacklers near the Lakers sideline at midfield, quickly shifted gears and outraced the Cal secondary to paydirt for the fourth-longest touchdown catch in program history.

On Cals ensuing drive, Portis hit Moore for a 14-yard pass, but as the Lakers McCormick was making the tackle he stripped the ball away and give Mercyhurst the ball at the Cal 42-yardline.

One play later, Rearick hit Trevor Kennedy for a touchdown and the Lakers held a 14-7 advantage. That lead would hold until the final minute of the half when Cal went 60 yards in 11 plays to tie the game on a 12-yard touchdown catch by RJ Thomas.

In the second half, the Lakers scored 17 answered points to put the game away before the Vulcans added the games final score with just under five minutes left to play. Prior to todays game, Cal had not allowed a second-half touchdown in the last six games and the only points an opponent scored came via a safety by Clarion.

Mercyhurst won the toss to open the game, deferred to the second half and then made the Vulcans pay as the Lakers took the opening drive 65 yards on eight plays in 4 minutes, 03 seconds. Jeff Groene caught a four-yard touchdown pass a play after Kennedy reeled in a 28-yard catch.

In the Lakers next possession, Wakefield added a 19-yard field goal for a 24-14 advantage. The drive appeared to be over on the previous play when Cal intercepted a pass in the end zone but the turnover was negated due to an offside penalty.

Cals next series looked as though the Vulcans might be gaining momentum after recovering Kennedys fumble on the punt return, but again the defense came through as Bryan Boyce picked off Portis at the Mercyhurst 30-yardline.

From there, the Lakers put together a 70-yard scoring drive in eight plays to take a 31-14 lead. Kennedys 20-yard touchdown catch capped the series.

The teams then combined for four-straight punts before Cal added the final score with 4:23 left after Portis hit Moore for a 56-yard touchdown.

Kennedy finished with six catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns. Coon also registered 100 yards receiving on four catches, giving the duo its second game of the year where they both recorded 100 or more yards receiving. Rearick finished the game with 299 yards passing, completing 21 of 37 attempts for four touchdowns.

Cals Moore registered a game-high 152 receiving yards on six catches. Portis finished with 212 yards passing on 13-of-29 attempts. Running back Trey Johnson added 122 yards rushing in his first start, carrying the ball 19 times.

Defensively, Cals Brett Diamond finished with a game-high 10 stops. For the Lakers, Kevin Williams posted a team-high eight tackles while Herbener finished with seven stops, a tackle for loss and a fumble recovery. Defensive ends Fred Hale and Dan Kruper powered through the Vulcans offensive line, as Kruper had four stops with 1.5 sacks for -18 yards. Hale added three tackles, including two sacks for -11 yards. Despite finishing with three tackles McCormick had a huge impact as he forced and recovered a fumble, recorded an interception and had a touchdown-saving pass break up.

Next up for the Lakers is a showdown with Slippery Rock on Oct. 30 at 12 noon. Mercyhurst will play in its second of four home games to close out the season and looks to avenge a 17-16 defeat at The Rock a season ago.