Losing starting quarterback Jake Sisson to a late game injury, the Edinboro Fighting Scots were unable to respond to a late touchdown from visiting Shippensburg, falling 20-13 in their PSAC opener Saturday afternoon at Sox Harrison Stadium.
Trailing 13-3 at halftime, Shippensburg (2-0) mounted a comeback in the form of 17 second half points that culminated in a 13- yard touchdown pass from Red Raiders sophomore quarterback Ryan Zapoticky to Jeff Gulyas on a third-down play with just 3:19 remaining in the game that broke a 13-13 tie.
“There’s a lot of football left,” head coach Scott Browning said. “We got better today. Our goal as a football team is to get better each day and we got better today. We played, I thought, three really good, solid quarters. You just have to keep fighting.”
After Sisson exited the game (18-of-32 passing for 257 yards, one touchdown, one interception), it was former Edinboro quarterback Jon Girvin who would get the call to lead the offense in the final two drives for the Fighting Scots (0-2). After appearing in eight games as a quarterback for Edinboro in 2013, Girvin had initially returned to the program this offseason to play tight end after leaving the school altogether last year.
“Well it happened fast and to be quite honest with you, Jon Girvin was not a quarterback until midway through this week,” Browning said. “He hadn’t taken a lot of snaps and was put in a tough situation. I thought he handled what we asked him to do pretty damn well .”
“I hadn’t thrown at all during the game,” admitted Girvin. “I was cold. I thought I was going to be in there for a couple of run plays, but that’s it. I didn’t think I was going to be in there to run an offense.”
The Scots began the game with the ball and took four and a half minutes to drive 64 yards on eight plays, but ultimately came up with no points on a fourth and goal stop for Shippensburg as Edinboro tailback Cory Bell was stuffed one-yard short of the end zone. After a scoreless first quarter, each side traded field goals to begin the second. With just over three minutes to play in the first half, Edinboro broke the tie on a 51-yard catch and run by redshirt-junior receiver Darren Massey (12 receptions, career-high 195 yards receiving, one touchdown) on a short screen pass from Sisson.
“There were open guys,” Massey explained of the first half production. “There were gaps in the defense and coverage was blown a few times. They had double teams on a receiver and you’ve got to find the open receiver.”
Following a string of 10 unanswered points in the third quarter to knot up the score, Shippensburg put together a nearly four minute, eleven play drive that amassed 76 yards and seemed certain to provide points. However, after a defensive hold set up the Red Raiders with first and goal from the Edinboro 1-yard line the Scots stopped Shippensburg on four straight plays to force a turnover on downs.
“Our defense stepped up and did a great job,” Browning said. “They gave us an opportunity.”
In the first of two chances to respond to the Red Raiders score later in the final quarter, Sisson found Massey for a 30- yard pickup to begin a drive that started at the Scots’ 15-yard line. Two plays later, Sisson’s day would end after a big hit on an incomplete pass near the 50. Girvin finished the afternoon 3-of-9 passing, with 29 yards and was also sacked once.
“I think he executed perfectly fine,” Massey said of Girvin. “He hurried up, he wasn’t under any pressure and he took control of the offense. I think he did a tremendous job for filling in the last minute.”
Shippensburg outgained Edinboro 203-59 on the ground, but finished only 3-of-13 on third down and 1-of-3 on fourth down on the afternoon. The Red Raiders’ streak of 22 games scoring 21 points or more was snapped.
Edinboro faces its first road test of the 2015 season on Saturday afternoon with a 1:05 p.m. kickoff at PSAC crossover opponent East Stroudsburg.
Mike Fenner is a staff writer for The Spectator.