Millersville knew it was going to have its hands full with No. 24 Indiana University of Pennsylvania long before the teams arrived at Chryst Field at Biemesderfer Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Shortly after kickoff, the Marauders found out exactly how much trouble it was facing.
Indiana scored 40 points by halftime, including a 46-yard pass on its first play from scrimmage on its way to a 54-0 victory. The victory pushed the nationally ranked Crimson Hawks to 2-0 with a 78-13 scoring advantage in those games. Millersville falls to 1-1.
Regardless, the tone was set early on Saturday when Millersville opened the game by going three-and-out for minus-5 yards of offense.
It was all uphill from there.
Millersville posted minus-9 yards rushing on eight carries in the first quarter, 12 yards rushing and zero passing in the second and minus-20 yards rushing on five attempts in the third, on the way to a minus-22 rushing effort with just 26 yards of total offense.
Millersville had its best chance to score in the second quarter when Alex Pelegrin recovered a muffed punt at the 4. But from there Millersville went backwards, losing eight yards on three plays before turning it over on an interception.
“This puts us in a position to take a look at what we're doing in all aspects of our program,” coach J.C. Morgan said.
Indeed, experience was a factor in Saturday’s game, as 13 freshmen and sophomores started for Millersville. Additionally, freshman quarterback T.J. Pergine entered the game in the second quarter when junior starting quarterback Collin Shank exited. Conversely, Indiana started six seniors on both sides of the ball and it showed. Quarterbacks Quinton Maxwell and Jalen Reese, both redshirt seniors, combined to throw for 399 yards on 21-for-27 passing with five touchdowns. They connected with redshirt senior receivers JoJo Gause and Don McNeil for eight catches and 122 yards.
Meanwhile, Millersville's quarterback tandem of Shank and Pergine were sacked seven times and combined to go 6 for 28 with an interception for 48 yards.
"We're playing a lot of young players and we knew that going in," Morgan said. "We made a lot of mistakes. Against a team like IUP, you can't make those mistakes. I think when we go back and look at the film tonight we know we're going to see a lot of basic fundamentals that we got away from and we have to find a way to get that back. That starts with me.
"Give IUP credit. They are a team in a place where we're trying to get to. I think we can go back and see that if we clean up our fundamentals — not that that will be a 54-point difference — but I think we'll see we can make a few more plays to make it more competitive."
Next, Millersville takes it on the road to take on another nationally ranked team in No. 11 Slippery Rock in an evening game next Saturday. A season ago, Millersville suffered a 57-10 loss at home to Slippery Rock in which the The Rock led 42-0 at the half, holding the Marauders to minus-29 yards rushing in the game.
Millersville has lost its last five games against Slippery Rock.
"We have a lot of football to play — a lot of football to play," Morgan said. "It's like I told those guys, there's a lot of time left in the season and we have a lot of good football players. We ran into a tough matchup and that happens. I think where we're at that's part of our process and a part of our journey. We'll be fine. We have a lot of ways to go."
In other words, the young Millersville team will have to trust the process, as they say.
"Trust the process. We talk about that," Morgan said. "We'll get back to work tomorrow and keep our spirits up. We have too much ball left to go and I love those guys too much to not give them my best."
Millersville returns home on Sept. 28 when it hosts West Chester.