The Slippery Rock University football team (9-2) is in the NCAA Division II playoffs for the second consecutive year after defeating Bloomsburg University in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Championship game last Saturday.
SRU defeated Bloomsburg 28-26.
“It was a great day at the Rock, and I’m just so proud of the team and the coaching staff,” SRU head coach George Mihalik said. “Four weeks ago, nobody thought that was a reality. This team believed, kept fighting and winning week by week, and we beat the number five team in the nation and number one team in the region.”
The first half was dominated by the Green and White. They scored all four of their touchdowns (three passing, one rushing) in the half. Bloomsburg scored 17 points in the half.
The second half was dictated by the Rock’s defense.
The offense couldn’t score in the half, and Bloomsburg was able to put up nine unanswered points against the defense. However, SRU never gave up the lead.
“The offense carried the first half of the game, the defense was fantastic in the second half,” Mihalik said. “Bloomsburg had a lot of drives that were starting at midfield, and our defense played fantastic to keep them out of the end zone and force field goal attempts.”
After putting up 28 points in the first half, Mihalik said that SRU couldn’t score because of the field position they were having on each drive.
“Early in the second half, we had terrible field position, and we were inside our five yard line to start,” Mihalik said. “We went on a 90-yard drive and fumbled on their four-yard line. We hurt ourselves in the second half, and that kept us off the board.”
The Green and White’s defense had another game in which many defenders had at least one tackle (23).
Sophomore defensive back Derrick Fulmore forced the Rock’s only turnover on defense with an interception.
SRU senior quarterback Jared Buck threw for 256 yards (17-27) with three touchdowns (two passing, one rushing) and two interceptions.
He also rushed five times for 59 yards. Buck’s two touchdowns were caught by sophomore wide receiver Leroy McClain and senior wide receiver Melvin German. Buck was also named the MVP of the PSAC Championship.
“He put the ball where it needed to be, and he ran with the football when necessary,” Mihalik said. “I thought he made some good checks at the line, and it was well deserved.”
A scary moment happened for Buck in the fourth quarter when a Bloomsburg defender attempted to tackle him, but the result was a helmet-to-helmet collision.
This took Buck out, forcing sophomore quarterback Zack Newsock to finish the game. However, Mihalik said Buck will practice this week and will be cleared to play on Saturday.
Even though this was one of the lowest rushing attempts for SRU as a team this season (46), they still managed to accumulate 233 total yards.
Sophomore running back Shamar Greene had 21 carries for 116 yards. Senior running back Teddy Blakeman rushed for 38 yards off of 12 carries, and had a touchdown.
Bloomsburg had an opportunity to take the lead with a field goal attempt with just under seven minutes left in the game, but their kicker, Braden Drexler, missed it.
“You never know what happens with long snappers, holders, and kickers,” Mihalik said. “I’m just happy our defense found a way to keep them off the board, especially on that last drive.”
The Rock’s game against West Chester University (10-1) is on Saturday, Nov. 22 at 12 p.m. in West Chester, Pennsylvania. This will be the fifth time in Rock’s history that the team has made it to the NCAA playoffs.
Mihalik said this game will be another tough challenge for his team, but that he is proud of what SRU has accomplished thus far.
“We’re one of 24 division II teams in the country that are still playing, and that’s a credit to our program that for the second year in a row, we’re in the national playoffs,” Mihalik said. “When you step back and look at it that way, it’s a tremendous accomplishment. Now, we just have to win one of those games.”