Slippery Rock University football (2-3, 1-1) will travel to Miller Field tomorrow to take on the No. 22 ranked Crimson Hawks of Indiana University of Pennsylvania (4-1, 1-1) in Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West play. SRU would like nothing more to escape with a victory and spoil their homecoming weekend.
The Rock defense will have the tough task of stopping the leading rusher in Division II football, senior running back Harvie Tuck. Tuck has rushed for 762 yards on the season and has nine rushing touchdowns.
“He’s the number one rusher in the country in Division II,” Rock head coach George Mihalik said. “You have to try and control Tuck. I don’t think you’re going to ever stop him. You have to try to limit his productivity. He’s a physical downhill runner. When he gets going, he’s tough to bring down.”
Despite averaging only 170 yards a game, redshirt junior quarterback Mike Box has come on strong for IUP recently.
“They’ve settled in on a kid named Box,” Mihalik said. “He came in and played well in the Cal game and they threw for some nice yardage in the Millersville game. I think they realized as productive as there run game is, at some point they will need to throw the ball. They have some receivers that can make plays. While your focus is Harvey Tuck, you can’t forget about their passing game.”
A growing trend of the year for the Rock defense has been a lack of creating big plays. The lack of big plays is something that Coach Mihalik and company is hoping to change.
“When we have chances to make plays, we go to make them,” Mihalik said. “We had a chance at an interception on Kutztown’s game tying drive, and we don’t come up with the interception. All you can do is continue to work hard and try to improve from day to day.”
Offensively, the Rock will be up against a rugged and tough IUP defense. IUP defensively gives up an average of 211.6 yards per game. Running the ball may be tough for Satterfield and company, as IUP only gives up an average of 40 yards per game.
A play that really defines a defense is “tackles for loss.” IUP figures well in that department, having totaled 43 tackles for loss on the year.
“It will be the best front four we play all year,” Mihalik said. “They are very athletic and physical. Their defensive numbers are very impressive. We are going to have to be able to run the ball because if they get us in passing situations, they can cause problems.”
One thing that SRU and IUP have in common is they both have one loss in PSAC-West play.
It is very evident that the Rock must win Saturday’s game to stay in the hunt for the PSAC-West crown.
“We need a win,” Mihalik said. “We need a win bad, and this is a tough opponent to try to get back on the winning track. We both have a loss in the conference and, basically two losses in the conference and you’re not going to win the conference. This is a need game from a conference perspective.”
The Rock will continue PSAC-West play next Saturday as they continue their road trip as they travel to Memorial Stadium to take on the Golden Eagles of Clarion. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.