Coal Bowl always a spectacle every season

Coal Bowl always a spectacle every season

Matt Hagy, Sports Editor

When it comes to Cal Vulcan football, there is nothing bigger than these two words: Coal Bowl. That term is given to the series California has with their biggest rival of them all, the IUP Crimson Hawks. The name in this series was only donned in 2009, but these two have been playing against each other since 1918. It is a series that seems much skewed with IUP leading the series 60-25-2 but for 20 straight years, it was all Indiana. In 1984 California defeated IUP in Indiana en route to a PSAC championship and then that is where the streak began. The then called IUP Indians did it every way possible to beat the Vulcans in the next 20 seasons.

    They did it in dominating fashion and also by the slimmest of margins by breaking the Vulcans hearts. It seemed impossible for Cal to beat IUP again. During the streak Indiana was in the middle of a grand renaissance. They made it to two national title games while the Vulcans could not buy a winning season. As the millennium came, California seemed to start to inch closer to IUP. The Vulcans lost on a questionable call in 2003 at home to Indiana which was the closest they had ever come in the streak to beating them but yet, the streak hit 19. After another loss the next season, the 2005 Vulcans team brought the biggest glimmer of hope to finally ending the streak. The offense was firing on all cylinders and finally was in contention for the playoffs.

     Finally on November 5th, 2005, the streak was dead. California scored on the first play of the game and carried momentum for the rest of the game to beat IUP 38-23. The win was monumental  for the Vulcan program as now it seemed California football was back to restoring the pride. That proved true with Cal dominating the rest of the decade against the newly named Crimson Hawks. With the addition of the Coal Pail trophy in 2009, it made the rivalry even bigger with now more to play for. In 2010, the Crimson Hawks staked a 15-0 lead in the 4th quarter over a Vulcans team still reeling from seeing their unbeaten season go by the way side a week earlier. California found some magic to tie the game and win it in overtime 18-15. Suddenly it was the Vulcans that were building a win streak in the series.

    The next season the teams played in a freak late October snowstorm at IUP and it was Cal having the big snow day using a dominant run game and a hail mary touchdown before halftime to beat the Crimson Hawks by a score of 28-10. With the Vulcans streak at seven, the matchup in California next season would become one of the greatest games ever played in the long rivalry. It was late September and both teams were ranked in the top 15 nationally and 3-0 to start the season. As most scripts go in this game, no one pulled away and the defenses made enough plays to keep the game close.

    Cal led 17-10 going into the 4th quarter, but it was only a matter of time before the Crimson Hawks would make the Vulcans pay. IUP missed countless opportunities to tie the game with turnovers despite controlling the game in the second half. Then they unleashed their superstar back Harvie Tuck who manhandled Cal and as the last quarter went along, suddenly it was the Crimson Hawks up 24-17. It looked like IUP was finally going to win a game in the Coal Bowl with another drive marching into California territory with under two minutes left in the game. However, IUP missed a field goal which set forth a series of cataclysmic events which will live in Coal Bowl history forever.

    Cal scored a long 80 yard touchdown on the play after the missed field goal with a minute left to set up a chance to tie the game. Shockingly Cal’s Kicker Cody Nuzzo missed the extra point to keep IUP with a one point lead. It was devastating to even think about that Cal came all this way back for nothing.

  Needing an onside kick recovery, Cal miraculously got one and let quarterback Peter Lalich drive them into Nuzzo’s range to redeem himself to win the game with a field goal. Nuzzo drilled a 30 yard field goal to seal an amazing comeback and keep the Coal Pail trophy in California. The next season was not so kind to the Vulcans in Indiana as the Crimson Hawks finally won a game in the Coal Bowl Series using 4 interceptions from Vulcan quarterback Cody Schroeder to win 20-7. IUP had snapped their losing streak to Cal, but the trophy returned to Vulcan possession the next season with a 21-13 win after turning the tables on the Crimson Hawks with forcing five IUP turnovers none bigger than Chaz Veal’s interception in the end zone with under a minute to go to save the win for the Vulcans.

    This season both Cal and IUP are once again jockeying for first place in the PSAC West. After a meltdown loss to Kutztown in week one, IUP has responded with four straight wins to remain perfect in conference play led by new quarterback Lenny Williams who transferred from Temple. Williams set an IUP single game record for rushing yards against Seton Hill a week ago and looks to challenge a Vulcans defense that struggles against dual-threat quarterbacks. Cal simply needs to erase any memory from last week’s nightmare in Slippery Rock and focus in on the Crimson Hawks.

     The Coal Bowl will be under the lights for the first time with a  6pm kickoff which adds a unique twist to the rivalry. One thing that is certain for any Coal Bowl, everyone will be watching and will fill the stands at George P. Miller Stadium Saturday night. There is nothing bigger and the excitement that makes this rivalry brings euphoria for both fan bases. So who wins in this one? Everybody.