Nov. 7, 2009

Courtesy of Shippensburg

SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. (Nov. 7) – Despite scoring 21 points in the fourth quarter, the No. 18 Vulcans suffered a 42-35 loss to No. 23 Shippensburg in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Championship on Saturday in front of 7,000 at Seth Grove Stadium.

The California University of Pennsylvania football team falls to 8-3 this season and now must wait until the NCAA Division II Selection Show to see if it earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Playoffs. The selection show will air nationally tomorrow, Sunday, Nov. 8, on ESPNEWS at 3 p.m. Meanwhile, Shippensburg captured its first PSAC Championship since 1981 and heightened its chances of earning a bye in the first round of the NCAA Playoffs.

Trailing 42-21 early in the fourth quarter, graduate student quarterback Josh Portis (Woodland Hills, Calif./William H. Taft/Maryland) led the Vulcans to three touchdown drives in the final nine minutes of the game. Cal U scored in the final minute of the contest, but unable to recover the onside kick to possibly drive and tie the game.

Portis finished the game with a career-high 305 passing yards on 24-of-48 attempts with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He now has thrown for 2,368 yards and 26 touchdowns after entering the game as the PSAC’s leader in both touchdown passes and passing efficiency.

Senior wide receiver AJ Jackson (Lehigh Acres, Fla./Lehigh/Sequoias), a regional finalist for the Harlon Hill Trophy, tied his season and career high with 10 receptions for 133 yards and one touchdown. In the loss, he became only the third player in program history to reach 1,000 receiving yards in a season. Jackson is also now tied with former NFL veteran Perry Kemp for second place in single-season history with 74 receptions.

The two teams traded touchdowns on their opening possessions of the game before Shippensburg scored a pair of touchdowns in the first half to take a 21-7 lead. Early in the second, junior running back Kevin Marshall capped a 91-yard drive with a nine-yard scoring run before senior quarterback Chad DiFebbo completed a three-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Mike Harris on the Red Raiders’ next possession.

On its first possession of the second half, Shippensburg expanded its lead to 28-7 before Cal U countered with an eight-yard touchdown run by junior running back Windell Brown (Duquesne, Pa./Duquesne), 28-14, with 1:11 left in the third quarter. The Red Raiders offensive attack continued as they scored a pair of touchdowns before the Vulcans mounted their comeback.

Trailing 42-14 midway through the fourth quarter, senior running back Freddie Bacco (Pittsburgh, Pa./Baldwin) scampered 46 yards for a touchdown with 9:18 left in the game. After a Shippensburg three-and-out, Portis connected with junior wide receiver Terrance Moore (Key West, Fla./Key West/Mesa) for a six-yard touchdown to make the score 42-28 with 5:01 remaining. The Vulcan defense again forced a punt to set-up the final Cal U drive of the game which was capped with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Portis to Jackson.

Defensively, senior defensive back Terrence Johnson (Braddock, Pa./Woodland Hills) led the Vulcans with nine tackles (seven solo) with 1.0 tackles for loss (TFL). Sophomore defensive back Erik Harris (New Oxford, Pa./New Oxford) and graduate student linebacker Dontey Brown (McKeesport, Pa./McKeesport/Penn State) finished with eight and seven stops, respectively.

Cal U and Shippensburg battled to one of the highest scoring PSAC Championships in league history, combining for 75 points and over 900 yards of total offense. Last year’s “State Game” was also a shootout, as the Vulcans won 47-36 behind a record-setting passing performance.

Neither team committed a turnover in the contest … Windell Brown led Cal U with 72 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the loss … The Vulcans allowed a season-high 195 rushing yards on 37 attempts … Shippensburg quarterback Chad DiFebbo was named PSAC Championship MVP after throwing for 294 yards and four touchdowns … Mike Harris, also a Harlon Hill Trophy regional finalist, finished with four receptions for 34 yards and one touchdown.