INDIANA, Pa. – The 19th-ranked IUP football team held off third-ranked Shepherd for a 24-21 victory at a rainy Miller Stadium on Saturday afternoon at Miller Stadium.
Mak Sexton won PSAC Championship MVP honors, guiding the IUP offense by going 19-for-29 through the air for 169 yards and three touchdowns. IUP was strong on the defensive end, holding one of the top-ranked offenses in the country to just seven points through three quarters.
Sexton found Cole Laney for a two-yard scoring strike late in the third, lifting IUP to a 24-7 advantage. Connor Kelly made seven tackles for IUP, while Darius Bruce and Kalen Frazier recorded interceptions. Frazier snared a pass inside the Shepherd redzone and raced ahead 67 yards, setting up the Laney score in a big momentum shift.
It’s the program’s fifth PSAC Championship game victory and the second for head coach Paul Tortorella. The conference crown is the first for IUP since 2017, a 24-7 victory on the road at West Chester.
Sporting a next-man-up mentality, IUP relied on contributions from different players without All-American wideout Duane Brown, who did not play in the game. Starting tailback Dayjure Stewart posted 38 rushing yards before leaving the game with an injury in the first quarter after a collision along the IUP sideline.
IUP held the high-scoring Shepherd offense in check most of the day, allowing just 53 yards on the ground. Tyson Bagent went over 300 yards passing, tossing two touchdowns for Shepherd, but had a pair of interceptions on tipped passes by the IUP defense.
Electing to go on defense first, IUP forced a three-and-out on Shepherd’s opening possession. The Crimson Hawks worked down the field with a 13-play drive that included a touchdown pass to Stewart in the flat for a 7-0 advantage.
Bruce jumped a pass for an interception on the next Shepherd drive before both sides traded punts to close out the opening quarter. Nick Andrasi booted a 33-yard field goal for a 10- IUP lead in the second quarter.
Shepherd got on the board for the first time with under five minutes remaining in the opening half on a passing connection from Bagent to Rodney Dorsey.
The Crimson hawks received the second-half kickoff, marching 93 yards on 12 plays for a lengthy scoring drive. Cam Suman reeled in a 21-yard grab, racing down the right hash and taking the ball to the IUP 40. From there, a pass interference penalty kept the drive alive on a third and long. Sexton eventually found Daniel Deabner in the right corner of the endzone for a 17-7 IUP advantage.
Off the big interception return from Taylor, the Crimson Hawks scored their final points of the afternoon on Laney’s two-yard reception. Shepherd made things close with a pair of scoring drives in the fourth quarter, a one-yard plunge from Ronnie Brown, and two-yard completion from Bagent.
Recovering the onside kickoff, IUP melted away the clock after a 41-yard burst up the middle from Adam Houser sealed the victory.