It’s homecoming at Slippery Rock University and nothing would cap off an exciting week like a win for the Rock football team.
The Rock (3-4, 2-2) is 20-4 all time for homecoming games under current head coach George Mihalik. They will look to add another win as they take on the Fighting Scots of Edinboro University (3-3, 2-2) in Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference-West play tomorrow at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium.
An ongoing trend facing the Green and White this season has been dealing with teams that are pass heavy, and that trend will continue against Edinboro. They are led by junior quarterback Cody Harris.
Harris has completed 70.2 percent of his passes while throwing for 11 touchdowns this season. He is 153-218 while passing for 1,637 yards and has been intercepted four times. He has also rushed for five touchdowns on the year.
“Harris is a good quarterback,” Mihalik said. “They are doing a lot of screens and short passes. He’s smart enough to get the ball out quick. Therefore, it’s tough to get a lot of rush on him because they are quick throws and he has a quick release.”
Harris’s favorite target is junior receiver Marcus Johnson. Johnson is a big play threat who has 36 catches for 429 yards and four touchdowns.
He is complimented by senior tight end Shawn Walker. Walker is a big bodied tight end at 6’3, 250 pounds. He has 18 catches for 178 yards and one touchdown.
“Johnson is very athletic and a dangerous guy to take it all the way when he catches the ball,” Mihalik said. “Walker is not your typical tight end. He’s big and athletic and they will put him in the slot and out wide so he can create some mismatches with his size against a smaller defensive back.”
Offensively, junior quarterback Nigel Barksdale has made the most of his opportunities filling in for regular starting quarterback, redshirt sophomore Jared Buck. Barksdale has thrown for 715 yards and six touchdowns on the year. He is also second on the team in rushing with 247 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.
Barksdale could be making his third start Saturday against an Edinboro defense that gives up an average of 380.2 yards a game, 194.5 passing, and 185.7 rushing.
“If a team is going to stack the line and take the run away, Nigel is good enough as a passer that he will beat you passing,” Mihalik said. “With each week, and with him getting more comfortable with the offense, I think he will keep getting better.”
Defensively, Edinboro has recorded nine interceptions on the year and is led by senior cornerback Branden Williams, who has two interceptions and has also blocked two kicks.
Senior linebacker Bruce Davis is leader of Edinboro front seven. Davis has recorded a team high 6.5 tackles for loss.
“They have an All-American corner in Williams,” Mihalik said. “He’s a big time player. “They have good size at linebacker and a transfer from Iowa in Bruce Davis. They always have a tough defensive line. They are an aggressive secondary. I’ve always been impressed with them. They are physical and will come down and hit you hard.”
The Green and White will continue Pennsylvania State Athletic-West Conference play next weekend as they travel to #14 California University of Pennsylvania (6-1, 4-0) to take on the Vulcans at Adamson Stadium at 3:30 p.m.