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Down four points, with 1:16 to play, Millersville couldn’t have asked for a much better situation.

The Marauders had the ball on first-and-goal from the Malone 5.

With a Malone penalty mixed in, Millersville ran seven plays.

All seven came up short, as did Millersville in a gut-wrenching, 38-34 nonconference loss to Malone Saturday evening in Millersville.

“That’s a tough way to lose,” Millersville coach J.C. Morgan said. “You have to score. That’s the situation you want to be in, you have the game in your hands.”

The Pioneers (2-6), who won for only the seventh time in 62 games since becoming a Division II program in 2012, got the go-ahead touchdown on an 11-yard run by quarterback Deandre Clayton, who rushed for a game-high 144 yards and two touchdowns. He also threw for 260 yards and a pair of scores.

Malone’s winning drive was kept alive two plays before the TD by converting a third-and-29 with a 49-yard pass from Clayton to Markell Stephens-Peppers.

“Most times, you’re in that situation, you expect, you should come out on the good end of it,” Morgan said of the pivotal third-down conversion.

After Pearson Hinkle’s 22-yard kickoff return, the Marauders (2-6) took over at their own 45 with 3:16 on the clock.

They converted a third-and-21 when Collin Shank hit Evan Morrill for a 28-yard gain the Pioneers’ 38. Shank completed 26 of 41 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns.

Later in the final drive, from the Malone 20, Shank hit Phil Overton for a 15-yard gain to the 5, setting up the final sequence of plays.

Three running plays netted minus-1 yard, and there were two incompletions and a pass interference call in the end zone against Malone that gave Millersville first-and-goal from the 2.

“Credit to both sides, it was each team slugging it out,” Morgan said. “The team that landed the final punch was going to win it and they were able to do that.”

Marauder comeback

Trailing 31-17 with 6:39 left in the third quarter, Millersville scored 17 unanswered points in a span of 10:07 to take a 34-31 lead.

Joey Farley kicked a 31-yard field goal before he was on the receiving end of a 51-yard TD pass from Morrill on a perfectly-executed halfback option pass.

Following an interception, Kobe Miranda gave the Marauders their first lead with a 1-yard TD run with 11:32 to play.

Key statistic

The Millersville defense surrendered a season-high 511 yards, including 251 on the ground.

Despite being a one-win team coming in, Malone was averaging 30 points and 354 yards per game.

Already without linebacker Cameron Boykin and defensive tackle Lucas Bush heading into the game, the MU defense lost safety Trejon Dinkins and cornerback Ray Lopez to injury in the first half.

He said it

“We talked about not letting Malone beat us for the next three weeks,” Morgan said. “It hurts, they're torn apart in there and as coaches we're torn apart. We have no choice but to keep going the course and finish these next three weeks strong.”

Up next

Millersville returns to PSAC East action next Saturday with a trip to Bloomsburg to face the Huskies (3-2 PSAC, 4-4 overall).