The Slippery Rock University football team (5-2) found themselves with the lead going into halftime in the “Big House Battle” against Mercyhurst University (3-4) last Saturday, but they couldn’t close the deal.
Mercyhurst won the game 45-23 after being down 23-17 at halftime. This was the third time that SRU played in the Big House in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and this was the third time they’ve lost.
SRU head coach George Mihalik decided to start senior quarterback Jared Buck over sophomore quarterback and this year’s starter, Zack Newsock, on the Friday before the game.
“He had an outstanding preseason game, and then an injury took him out of the possibility of starting,” Mihalik said. “He’s been practicing the last few weeks, and I noticed that on Tuesday that I thought his arm was back to where it was earlier in the year”
Buck threw the first touchdown of the game to sophomore wide receiver Leroy McClain for 52 yards. Buck had another long touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Nick Davis in the second quarter. Buck hasn’t played in a game since the 2012 season.
“I haven’t played since 2012, so that feeling was awesome- being able to celebrate with my team,” Buck said.
The Rock had a six point lead going into halftime, but the second half was a completely different story. Mercyhurst scored 28 unanswered points, and shut out SRU’s scoring.
“They controlled the line of scrimmage in the second half, and did a great job coaching in all three phases of the game,” Mihalik said.
Buck threw for 239 yards (18-29) with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also rushed for 36 yards.
“I just tried to mentally prepare myself and know that it’s a big stage and know that I had to do my best, unfortunately I didn’t do that,” Buck said.
SRU’s running game, which is normally their focus on offense, had 122 yards total, which is their second lowest amount this season.
“I thought we got away from our running game a little too quickly in the second half, and put ourselves in some bad second and 10 situations,” Mihalik said.
SRU sophomore running back Shamar Greene and senior running back Teddy Blakeman rushed for 56 and 24 yards respectively, their lowest totals this season. Junior wide receiver Jaimire Dutrieuille scored the only rushing touchdown for the Green and White on a four yard carry.
The Rock’s defense held Mercyhurst to 17 points in the first half, but allowed them to score on every drive in the second half. Mercyhurst quarterback Brendan Boylan threw for 385 yards (24-37) with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Backup quarterback Zach Emerick came into the game and completed one pass for one touchdown as well. Mercyhursts running game was able to accumulate 145 yards with one touchdown.
“I felt like we did a good job on first and second down, but we couldn’t get off the field on third down,” SRU senior linebacker Austin Miele said. “I’ll have to watch the tape, but I couldn’t tell you what happened out there.”
The Rock set the Division II record for most fans in attendance during the 1979 game against Shippensburg University at the Big House with 61,143 people. There were 15,121 people in attendance at this years game.
“The most people we play in front of during the season is maybe 10,000, and showing up here and seeing how big the stadium is, it’s definitely a surreal feeling,” Buck said. “I just wish we could’ve came out and played better football.”
The Green and White have lost two games in a row, after opening up the season on a five game winning streak.
The Rock’s next game is against Indiana University of Pennsylvania (5-2) on Saturday, Oct. 25 in Indiana, Pennsylvania at 1 p.m.