Penalty flags fell to the ground like rain as the Slippery Rock football team lost to Gannon University 38-27 in a downpour last Saturday at the Gannon University Field.
The loss moves the Green and White to 0-1 in the PSAC-West and 2-1 for the season.
Sixteen penalties for 143 yards kept SRU from gaining control of the game.
Head coach George Mihalik said that the penalties were a big factor in the loss.
“Penalties stop drives,” Mihalik said. “They stop our offense and they continue the opponent’s drive. 16 is way too many and we can’t win with that.”
Redshirt senior defensive lineman Tony Papley feels the team needs to become more disciplined and avoid the mental mistakes.
“We were basically picking the ball up and handing it to them on the one,” Papley said. “It’s free yardage and it hurt us bad.”
Papley led the defense with a team-high nine tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and one interception.
Papley was recognized for his defensive efforts against Gannon and awarded an honorable mention for Division II National Player of the Week.
Junior safety Austin Miele and redshirt sophomore defensive back Derek Morgan also recorded nine tackles. Redshirt senior linebacker Quindell Dean had eight tackles and one interception.
Mihalik felt that the team lost focus as the game went on.
“We started the game ready to play,” Mihalik said. “Waking up early for the noon kickoff didn’t affect us. As good as we played against Shippensburg is as bad as we played against Gannon.”
Special teams gave up a crucial 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the third quarter after Slippery Rock had just tied up the score and gained some momentum.
“We have to improve our special teams’ performance,” Mihalik said. “That’s the big focus.”
The Rock offense, led by senior quarterback Nigel Barksdale, struggled to convert red-zone opportunities into points against Gannon.
There were five drives that led SRU into the red-zone that didn’t lead to points. Barksdale threw two interceptions, a field goal attempt went wide right, another field goal attempt was blocked and there was a turnover on downs.
Barksdale threw for two touchdowns and 250 yards, but the penalties and lack of conversion in the red-zone held the Rock to 27 points.
Mihalik said that the weather played a part in Barksdale’s performance but made no excuses for it.
The weather varied from a steady rain to a torrential downpour the entire game.
“As a quarterback, those weather conditions make it difficult to throw the football,” Mihalik said. “Nigel will bounce back and perform the way he’s capable of. I have confidence the entire team will play a much better game.”
Barksdale connected with redshirt senior wide receiver John Schademan for over 100 yards for the third-consecutive game. Schademan had six catches for 123 yards.
Redshirt junior tight end Julian Harrell was the target for both of Barksdale’s touchdown passes. The 14-yard and 32-yard touchdown passes were Harrell’s only catches of the game.
The running game was led by redshirt sophomore running back Brett Crenshaw with 61 yards on six carries. Crenshaw scored the first touchdown for SRU with a 55 yard run on the second play of the game.
Redshirt junior Teddy Blakeman had seven carries for 36 yards, including a two-yard touchdown.
Slippery Rock faces Mercyhurst University tomorrow at home for their “Hall of Fame Game”.
Papley said the defense is determined to make a statement against Mercyhurst.
“We’re making it a point to buckle down,” Papley said. “We’ve let up 30 points or more and we take the criticism for that personally.”
Mercyhurst currently has a 1-2 record and is also 0-1 in the PSAC-West.
“Their 1-2 record is misleading,” Mihalik said. “They’ve been playing well defensively and it’s going to be a challenge. They don’t want to lose three games and neither team wants two losses in the conference.”
Mercyhurst hasn’t allowed an opponent to score more than 20 points this season while Slippery Rock hasn’t put up less than 27 points.
Slippery Rock and Mercyhurst will battle for their first win in the PSAC-West conference tomorrow at 6 p.m at the Mihalik-Thompson Stadium.