Slippery Rock University football will hit the road to continue Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference-West play and take on the Lakers of Mercyhurst University at Tullio Field tomorrow afternoon.
The Rock (2-1, 1-0) defeated Mercyhurst (2-1, 1-0) last year, but unfortunately winning up in Erie has been hard to come by in recent years. In fact, winning at Mercyhurst hasn’t happened ever for SRU since Mercyhurst joined the PSAC West in 2008. The Rock’s record at Mercyhurst stands at 0-2.
SRU defended 63 passes last week against Gannon. This week, it will be trying to slow down the Mercyhurst rushing attack led by redshirt freshman Brandon Brown-Dykes.
Brown-Dykes has rushed for 414 yards and five touchdowns in three games.
He is complimented by junior Allen Jones, who has rushed for 261 yards and two touchdowns.
“They want to run the ball,” Rock head coach George Mihalik said about Mercyhurst. “Their offensive line is strong and physical. They will try to lull you to sleep, then hit you with the play action pass.”
Offensively, Mercyhurst averages 409 yards of offense a game, 245 yards coming from the ground game.
Leading the Rock defense in trying to shut down the Lakers run game will be junior linebacker and leading tackler Gary Allen.
“Upfront we have to be solid,” Allen said. “Overall as a defense we have to be solid. We need to get pressure on the quarterback and make the running backs know we are there. We have a couple new blitzes going in and we will scheme off of them.”
Offensively, SRU got off to slow start against Gannon. This is something they are looking to avoid this week with a Mercyhurst defense that plays a physical similar style of defense to the Rock.
“Our offense has to start a lot faster to begin the game,” Mihalik said. “It takes us a while to get going and we can’t have that. We have to help our defense out early in the game. It’s been a focus in practice this week.”
Mercyhurst defensively runs a 3-5-3 and is led by junior lineman Dustin Galich and senior lineman Serge Augustin.
Mercyhurst may be holding opposing offenses to an average of 148 yards per game, and they give up an average of 212 yards per game.
Redshirt senior running back Akeem Satterfield was held to 21 yards on 10 carries last week, but could be poised for a big game against Mercyhurst’s run defense.
“I’m feeling really confident about this week,” Satterfield said. “I’m looking for a win. We’ve never beat Mercyhurst in Erie. This will be a big win if we can get it.”
The Rock’s special teams contributed in a big way last week and will need to perform at a high level this week in stopping the number one kick returner in Division II football in senior receiver Paris Bruner.
“One of the issues is that we can’t predict is the wind factor,” Mihalik said. “You have to play the wind. It will be a game day decision on how we kick to him. If you can keep it away from him, you want to.”
The Rock will return home next weekend to take on Kutztown University (1-2) in a rematch of the 2011 Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Championship.
Game time is set for 6 p.m. at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium.