Six touchdown passes. 465 yards. One new school record. Senior quarterback Nigel Barksdale led the Slippery Rock football team to a 51-36 season-opening win over Northwood University in Michigan last Saturday.
Barksdale’s six touchdowns passed the previous single-game touchdown record of five set by Eric Denton in 1986. Barksdale’s first pass of the game went to Senior Ken Amos for a 73-yard touchdown.
“Nigel had an outstanding day,” head coach George Mihalik said. “Anytime you set a record, there’s no doubt that you had a fantastic performance.”
Mihalik felt Barksdale’s performance was strongly supported by the rest of the offense.
“His cast of supporting players is outstanding,” Mihalik said.
Barksdales six touchdown passes were caught by five different receivers.
Senior John Schademan caught six passes for 108 yards, including two touchdown receptions (26 total yards), sophomore Jaimire Dutrieuille caught six passes and had one touchdown for 19 yards, senior Laquinn Stephens-Howling had four catches for 96 yards and a 53-yard touchdown, senior Robert Joyce brought in a two-yard touchdown pass and Amos had six receptions for 116 yards and the 73-yard touchdown.
Barksdale finished the game with 27 completions for 48 attempts. Redshirt freshman Zack Newsock took over in the middle of the fourth and completed his only pass attempt for seven yards and rushed 22 yards on five carries.
SRU earned 675 yards in total offense 675 yards (203 rushing, 472 passing) against the Timberwolves.
Redshirt freshman Shamar Green led the Rock with 91 rushing yards on 22 carries, averaging four yards per carry.
Junior Mike Wainauskis completed a 30-yard field goal and was 3-for-3 on extra point attempts. Senior Brian Shaw was 2-for-3 on extra points.
Despite the record-breaking performance, Slippery Rock lost three fumbles and Barksdale threw two interceptions.
A high turnover rate from the offense cannot become a pattern if SRU wants to continue winning and Mihalik said the issue will be addressed immediately.
“You’re not going to win many games when you have five turnovers,” Mihalik said. “We have to focus and reduce the turnovers.”
The Rock’s defense allowed Northwood to earn 36 points and senior cornerback Anthony Saunders intercepted a pass from Northwood’s quarterback Mitch Robinson in the fourth-quarter for a 28-yard touchdown.
“Saunders made a great play,” Mihalik said. “We want to increase turnovers from the defense. We need to reduce them from the offense.”
Senior Tony Papley recorded the only sack for SRU and pushed the Northwood offense back four yards while Northwood earned four sacks causing the Green and White to lose 26 yards.
The season-opener brought to light several weaknesses in SRU’s team, Mihalik said. He noted that the special teams needs to be better at kickoff returns, the offense needs to reduce turnovers and the defense cannot give up big plays.
“We had Northwood at fourth-and-18 and they scored a touchdown,” Mihalik said. “That can’t happen.”
Slippery Rock faces off against Shippensburg University and their Harlon Hill trophy-winning quarterback, Zach Zulli, tomorrow at home.
The Harlon Hill trophy is the Division II version of the Heisman trophy.
Shippensburg was shut out 33-0 by Shepherd University last week but Mihalik said the team can’t read into it too much
“I think it was a fluke and was just one of those games that got away from them early,” Mihalik said. “Anytime Zulli is on the field they have a chance to score and a chance to win.”
Last season, SRU lost to Shippensburg 55-35 and Mihalik said that they were unable to control their offense.
Mihalik hopes that the team will feed off of the energy from their home crowd and make a stand against Shippensburg.
“It’s going to be an electric, noisy atmosphere,” Mihalik said. “It’s family day, Village Fest and the home-opener. As a player, you just feed off that energy.”
Slippery Rock has had the number one attendance in the conference for over 40 years and Mihalik gives all the credit to the students.
“We have a fantastic student body and we expect them to come out, be painted up and really create a college game day atmosphere,” Mihalik said.
Slippery Rock will battle the Shippensburg University Raiders tomorrow night at 6.pm. for their “White Out Night” at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium.