Slippery Rock University football is on a two-game winning streak, their first winning streak of the year. Continuing that winning streak, however, will be a tough task as they hit the road to take on the No. 13 Vulcans of California University of Pennsylvania at Adamson Stadium.
The Rock (4-4, 3-2) defeated Cal-U (7-1, 5-0) last year 17-3 en route to winning the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference-West Division title.
But, it was the latter that wound up in the Division II National Playoffs.
The Rock defense will be faced with the tough task of shutting down a high powered passing attack.
Cal-U averages 451.9 yards per game, 314.2 of those yards coming through the air. Cal-U features the second ranked passer in the PSAC in senior Peter Lalich.
Lalich has completed 154 passes on 244 attempts for 2,143 yards, and 17 touchdowns.
“It’s extremely important that we have to get pressure on them,” Rock head coach George Mihalik said. “It will be difficult though because their offensive line is very good and four out of the five starts are seniors. They are real solid up front. It will be a tough challenge for our defensive line.”
Cal-U’s receiving core is led by junior receiver Mike Williams who has 53 catches for 762 yards and six touchdowns.
He is complimented by junior receiver Trey Johnson who has been just as effective in catching the ball, with 39 catches for 522 yards and five touchdowns.
Defensively, Cal-U has recorded 23 sacks. Junior defensive lineman BJ Stevens and Darnell Hardings have combined for 13.5 out of the 23 sacks.
“Hardings and Stevens are excellent edge players,” Mihalik said. “You have to mix up offensive schemes to keep them off balance. If they get us in a passing situation, it will be tough to keep them out of our backfield.”
Freshman offensive lineman Joe LoSchiavo will have the tough task of trying to block Stevens.
“He’s mostly a speed rusher guy,” LoSchiavo said. “I’m just working on foot work. I go against Jeff Thompson every day in pass pro, so he gives me the best look in one on ones. I’m not too concerned about the defensive ends because I’ve adapted to all the defensive ends I’ve gone against this year. I just have to play my game.”
Cal-U safety Rontez Miles is the reigning PSAC-West defensive player of the year and was a first team All-American performer last year. He leads the team 60 tackles and is tied for the conference lead in interceptions with four.
“He covers the entire field from the safety position,” Mihalik said. “He is a physical player. Against Cal, you have to be concerned about passes over the middle because of the range that Miles has. The deep ball, especially, because he can get from one sideline to the middle in a hurry.”
Junior quarterback Nigel Barksdale has become the playmaker on offense for the Green and White with his ability to run and pass.
Barksdale will need to continue to play at a high level in order to take down the nationally ranked Vulcans.
“After these two wins my confidence is building up and I feel like our team is well prepared to play Cal this Saturday,” Barksdale said. “Any big key element on the defensive football field really doesn’t affect me that much because I’m a running quarterback. Most people bypass that I can throw the ball well and I think they will have their hands full this Saturday.”
The Rock will return home next Saturday to finish PSAC-West play against Lock Haven University (0-8, 0-5). Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.