Rock football stormed past West Chester 61-12 Saturday afternoon to win its second straight Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) championship, the third conference title in program history and the first 10-win season for the program since 1999. The championship game was also Rock football’s 1,000th game played in program history.
“It was a great feeling,” Rock head coach George Mihalik said. “Overall we played a fantastic game. We went in with a really positive mindset and we were ready to go.”
Slippery Rock got on the board early as redshirt-junior running back Shamar Greene broke free for a 24-yard touchdown run just over five minutes into the game. Greene finished the game just the one touchdown and 178 total rushing yards on 21 carries. Senior Julian Durden rushed for 63 yards and two scores, his 18th and 19th touchdowns of the season.
Senior quarterback Dante Nania had a dominant performance passing the ball, completing 18-of-27 passes for 304 and five touchdowns. His performance led to him being named as the PSAC’s 2015 Conference Championship Most Valuable Player award.
“Dante is a very calm quarterback,” Mihalik said. “He doesn’t get rattled and keeps his composure. I think his composure and confidence level really rubs off on to the other guys on the offensive side of the ball.”
Nania would not have been able to win that honor if he did not have targets to throw to, and senior wide receiver Marcus Carter had 54 receiving yards and one touchdown. Redshirt-sophomore Cornelius Raye caught three passes for 51 yards while redshirt-junior Taishan Tucker hauled in two catches for 48 yards. Both Raye and Tucker scored one touchdown on the day.
Senior wide receiver Jaimire Dutrieuille led all Rock receivers by catching four passes for 69 yards and one touchdown.
He became the sixth player in SRU history with at least 2,000 yards receiving in his career, and also became fifth all-time in career touchdown receptions with 18.
The Rock defense allowed 245 yards of total offense and just 52 yards rushing. Senior Teven Williams led the SRU defense with nine tackles, wrapping up all nine Golden Rams unassisted. Redshirt-sophomore Marcus Martin and redshirt-junior TJ Matrascia recorded one sack each while redshirt-senior Mike Grata recorded six tackles, one sack and recovered a fumble.
A standout performer for SRU’s defense was freshman defensive back Kyle Hall who replaced sophomore transfer from Pitt, Titus Howard. Hall made seven solo tackles, including one tackle for a loss.
Redshirt-junior Erik Johnson and junior Deonte Flemings each recorded one interception while senior Johnny Davis recovered and returned a fumble for 57 yards straight into the end zone for a score in the fourth quarter.
Following Saturday’s win, The Rock learned its team earned a no. 2 seed in the NCAA Division II College Football Tournament. The seeding guarantees at least one home game for SRU, and it will host Virginia Union Saturday at noon at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium.
“Right now, we are considered as one the 28 best teams in the entire country. After this Saturday, that number will be cut to 16 teams,” Mihalik said. “It’s always good to play at home, especially with our home record. To have this chance to host a national playoff game for the first time since 1999 is a special feeling and we hope to give everyone around here something to cheer about.”