The Slippery Rock University football team (8-2) defeated Clarion University (2-8) last Saturday and secured the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Western Division title. SRU won the game 45-8.
In order to win the PSAC-West, the Rock needed California University of Pennsylvania (7-2) to lose to Mercyhurst University on Saturday, and they did.
This is the third time out of the last four years that the Green and White have won the PSAC-West.
Going into halftime, the Rock led Clarion 17-8. In the second half, SRU scored 28 unanswered points.
“We were moving the ball in the first half, but when we were getting in the red zone, mistakes would occur,” SRU head coach George Mihalik said. “In the second half, we came out and eliminated those mental errors and physical mistakes, and that’s why the points came.”
SRU was led by a team effort on both sides of the ball.
Their offense was a steady attack, including 60 carries in the running game, and 41 passes.
The running game was led by sophomore running back Shamar Greene who had 26 carries for 114 yards.
Freshman running back Isiah Neely rushed 16 times for 56 yards and a touchdown.
Sophomore quarterback Zack Newsock saw some playing time in this game, and scored a rushing touchdown.
“Based on down and distance, they gave us different defensive schemes,” Mihalik said. “If they gave you the pass, you aren’t banging your head against the wall, trying to run it if they’re stacking against the run. The play calls were more on the defensive alignments than what we were going to do.”
Senior quarterback Jared Buck had his biggest game of the season, passing for 345 yards (22-35) with three touchdowns and one interception.
SRU senior wide receiver Melvin German also threw a touchdown, which was caught by sophomore wide receiver Leroy McClain in the third quarter.
“He struggled in the first half, but I thought he kept his composure and maintained his confidence,” Mihalik said in reference to Buck. “In the second half, he settled down and played with great confidence and decision making.”
Three Rock receivers caught touchdowns, including McClain, sophomore Drew Scales, and junior Jaimire Dutrieuille.
Dutrieuille caught seven passes for 126 yards to go along with two touchdowns.
“From week to week, you never know who’s gonna catch the pass,” Mihalik said. “On every pass, they’re all an option, based on how the defense decides to cover it and who’s there.
Our receivers know that, and I think that’s a plus, because every game it could be a different guy or the same guy.”
SRU’s defense was extremely involved in this game.
While there was only one turnover (an interception by sophomore defensive back Derrick Fulmore), the Rock had 21 defensive players with at least one tackle.
There were also 10 total pass breakups among the players.
The Rock has allowed opponents to score a total of 15 points in the past two weeks.
“Our defense is playing very well, and the biggest thing is that we’re controlling the line of scrimmage,” Mihalik said. “We are really shutting down the opponents rushing game, and therefore, when you get a team in a one-dimensional offense, you can have a lot of success. “
Clarion quarterback Connor Simmons threw for 108 yards (8-28) with one touchdown and one interception.
“It was our front four primarily,” Mihalik said. “There were a few blitzes, but the majority of the time, our defensive front four are pretty active and pretty good.”
The Rock will host Bloomsburg University (10-0) this Saturday at 12:30 p.m. for the PSAC Championship game.
SRU lost last year’s PSAC Championship game to Bloomsburg 42-38. This is the first time since 1974 that the championship game will be at the Rock.
“Nobody gives us a chance to win this game because of the outstanding season Bloomsburg has,” Mihalik said. “They’re a good team, they like to run the ball, and they have a lot of possession time. We played them last year in the championship game, and it came down to the last 30 seconds. They know us, and we know them.”
Mihalik believes that his team is ready to win the PSAC Championship this season.
“A couple weeks ago, nobody thought we’d be in this position, and I think a lot of people gave up on us,” Mihalik said. “Fortunately, the staff did a great job, and the players did a great job believing in what we can accomplish. Here we are in the PSAC title game, and our approach is that we’re going to win that championship here at home.”