The Rock’s dominant running game led its team to a 34-9 victory over East Stroudsburg (0-2) during a rainy contest Saturday evening, resulting in SRU climbing the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) national rankings to no. 18 overall.
“I thought from a whole team perspective, we controlled the line of scrimmage from both sides of the ball,” Rock head coach George Mihalik said. “The defensive line and linebackers did a good job and East Stroudsburg could not run the ball. On the other side, our offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage and provided a running game. In that kind of weather, if you’re able to run the football you’re going to win.”
The Green and White (2-0), who previously held the no. 21 overall spot, tallied 414 total rushing yards and 577 yards of total offense.
The team was led in the running game by redshirt-junior Shamar Greene, who rushed for 130 yards on 19 carries. He also caught a touchdown pass for eight yards. Despite Greene’s big first half performance, he was forced to leave the game after the half due to an ankle injury. According to Mihalik, Greene suffered a slight ankle sprain. Following Greene’s injury, senior Julian Durden and redshirt-sophomore Isiah Neely were able to secure SRU’s rushing attack on the ground. Neely rushed for 152 yards on just 12 carries, breaking free for a 30-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Durden was able to add 95 yards on the ground, with a one-yard touchdown run in the third. Neely averaged 12.7 yards per carry on the day.
“Running back is one of the positions on our team that has outstanding depth,” Mihalik said. “Those two guys (Durden and Neely) can play and we have total confidence in them when they have the football.”
Senior transfer out of Youngstown State, Dante Nania, was able to help Slippery Rock move the ball up and down the field through the air as well. Nania completed 14-of-32 passing attempts, throwing for one touchdown pass but three interceptions with 163 yards.
“The first interception was more of just a mental mistake than a physical mistake,” Mihalik said. “Sometimes a quarterback just needs to take a sack. Because of the weather, we struggled without snaps. Giving Dante credit, I think he handled those snaps pretty well and was able to make some productive plays. He was able to make some key plays, and all in all, with that type of weather he was able to do a good job.”
Rock senior wide receiver Jaimire Dutrieulle hauled in four passes for 57 yards. After catching those four passes, Dutrieulle moved to fourth all-time in Rock history for career receptions with 131.
Redshirt-sophomore Cornelius Raye also caught six passes for 58 yards, while senior Marcus Carter grabbed two passes for 32 yards.
Despite only being able to find the end zone once during the game, East Stroudsburg’s senior quarterback Matt Soltes put up 236 yards with one touchdown and one interception on 18 completions.
Warrior junior running back Robert Heely ran for 83 yards on 14 carries, calming down after opening ESU’s first series with a 55-yard dash.
“First play of the game, one of our guys just didn’t get to the location he needed to be and it opened the seam for the big run,” Mihalik said. “They finished with 73 yards rushing, and if you take away that 55-yard run, we would’ve held them to about 20 yards rushing on 32 attempts.”
The Rock gets back to work Saturday at 6 p.m., hosting Millersville University (0-2) at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium. The Marauders will be coming off a 27-21 loss at Clarion.