The Slippery Rock University football team (9-3) was knocked out of the NCAA Division II playoffs in the first round for the second year in a row.
West Chester University (11-1) defeated SRU 46-20.
The Rock opened up the game with a 6-0 lead, but West Chester immediately gained the lead, outscoring SRU 12-6 in the first quarter. WCU then went on to score 34 more points over the next three quarters, while the Rock scored 14 more points (all in the fourth quarter).
“Defensively, we gave up some big pass plays,” SRU head coach George Mihalik said. “Combine that with the fact that the offense was going three and out, and the defense was on the field a lot. They controlled the game in the second quarter, and they had all the momentum.”
SRU senior quarterback Jared Buck was out for the game due to an injury, so sophomore quarterback, and former starter, Zack Newsock started. He threw for 127 yards (13-31) with three touchdowns and one interception. His three touchdown passes were caught by redshirt freshman Cornelius Raye, junior wide receiver Jaimire Dutrieuille and sophomore wide receiver Drew Scales.
“Zack had won five games for us, so I don’t think it was that critical,” Mihalik said in reference to Newsock. “He’s just one guy. There are 10 other guys who needed to make things happen, and overall as an offense, we couldn’t get any kind of productivity or momentum.”
The running game, which has been the staple of this year’s SRU offense, was nonexistent against WCU. This was the first game of the season in which the Rock was unable to score a rushing touchdown. As a team, they rushed for a total of 31 yards, which was the lowest amount this season. Sophomore and senior running backs Shamar Greene and Teddy Blakeman rushed 22 times, while Newsock rushed three times.
“They crowded the line of scrimmage, and we struggled throwing the football,” Mihalik said. “When that’s happening, it’s a long day, and you can’t get first downs.”
SRU’s defense allowed WCU’s offense to dominate the game. As a team, WCU rushed for 148 yards and one touchdown. WCU quarterback Sean McCartney passed for 405 yards (23-40) for five touchdowns and no interceptions. Tim Brown caught three of McCartney’s touchdown passes, while Adam Dempsey and Mike Doty caught the other two.
“He’s a great quarterback, and it was no surprise that he was able to find those receivers,” Mihalik said. “We weren’t able to get a lot of pressure on him, and we gave him a chance to stand in the pocket.”
The Rock’s defense forced zero turnovers, while WCU’s defense had one interception.
The Green and White finished the season as the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Champions, and Mihalik is proud of what his team has accomplished.
“At the beginning of the season, I don’t think anybody really thought we would be in the championship game, let alone make the national playoffs,” Mihalik said. “From that standpoint, this team really came together and did a great job to win the championship and make the national playoffs for the second year in a row. I think the program is on really solid ground, and the coaching and players have done a great job of making it happen year in and year out.”