Thanks to a missed extra point in the fourth quarter, Rock football (7-1 overall, 4-1 PSAC) was able to sneak past arch rival Indiana University (Pennsylvania) (5-2 overall, 4-1 PSAC) Saturday 40-39.
The win moves SRU into a first place tie with Clarion University (7-1 overall, 4-1 PSAC), which suffered its first loss of the season 42-28 to California University (Pennsylvania) Saturday afternoon.
Slippery Rock jumped out to an early 9-0 lead with 26-yard touchdown run by senior quarterback Dante Nania, followed by a 2-point safety on IUP’s first possession. The Crimson Hawks responded with 20 unanswered points to lead SRU 20-9 at the end of the first quarter. Slippery Rock outscored IUP 21-6 in the second quarter to take a 30-26 lead at halftime.
“It was very important for us to retake control of the game and take the lead at halftime,” Rock head coach George Mihalik said. “I thought that was a big momentum swing. At halftime I just told them that we have 30 more minutes until we take another step toward our ultimate goal, and not to let this team take it away from us.”
IUP came out hot in the second half and scored a quick touchdown to take a 33-30 lead, but Slippery Rock was quick to respond as Andrew Huska connected on a 33-yard field goal to tie the game. In the fourth quarter, SRU regained the lead as senior Julian Durden ran the ball eight yards in to the end zone. After converting the extra point, The Rock took a seven point lead. On the following Crimson Hawk possession, IUP’s quarterback Lenny Williams broke free for a 45-yard touchdown run. However, IUP kicker Ryan Stewart missed his third extra point attempt of the game, keeping Indiana one point behind The Rock. The Green and White’s defense was able to stand strong, and SRU walked away with a 40-39 victory.
Along with his rushing touchdown, Nania completed 21 passes for 242 yards with one passing touchdown and an interception. His passing touchdown came late in the second quarter as he connected with senior wide receiver Marcus Carter for a 49-yard touchdown pass. Carter finished with 72 yards receiving on three catches. Nania also finished with 32 yards rushing.
Other Rock receivers to make a big impact were redshirt-junior Taishan Tucker and redshirt-sophomore Cornelius Raye. Tucker caught seven passes for 93 yards while Raye hauled in six passes for 44 yards.
Redshirt-junior running back Shamar Greene carried the ball 40 times for Slippery Rock, racking up 192 rushing yards and one touchdown. Senior running back Julian Durden also rushed for 30 yards with two touchdowns. During the game, Greene became just the ninth rusher in Slippery Rock history to reach 3,000 career rushing yards. Durden leads Slippery Rock with 14 rushing touchdowns on the year.
“Shamar had a great game,” Mihalik said. “40 carries is probably a little more than we would like, but he was having such a great game that we just kept going with him. Our offensive line gave enough openings for our running backs to always be productive.”
Redshirt-senior Mike Grata had nine tackles for The Rock including 2.5 tackles for loss. Senior Teven Williams and sophomore Titus Howard each had tackles. Howard and redshirt-sophomore Marcus Martin each forced fumbles, while junior Bob Varnick recorded one sack.
The Green and White now shifts its focus as it travels north to visit winless Edinboro University. Kickoff is set for 12 p.m.