Assumption’s late rally comes up two points shy as Rock advances to round three

Published by adviser, Author: Ryan Barlow - Sports Editor, Date: November 28, 2015
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A late rally came up short for Assumption as Slippery Rock is able to hold off the Greyhounds 41-39 in the second round of the NCAA Division II football playoffs.

The Rock led 41-19 entering the fourth quarter, but the Greyhounds scored 20 unanswered to pull within two points. Assumption needed a two-point conversion to tie the game with just over three minutes remaining, but sophomore defensive back Titus Howard broke up the play to keep The Rock lead intact. Slippery Rock was forced to punt the ball on its next possession, and Howard was able to pick off Assumption quarterback Marc Monks on fourth down with just over one minute remaining to ensure The Rock victory.

“If you’re going to have a great season, you’re going to have to be able to come out on top in games like that,” Rock head coach George Mihalik said. “I don’t think we played our best game. We made plays when we had to, but overall it wasn’t our best. When you can win a game when you’re not at your best then that’s a pretty positive situation.”

The SRU offense moved the ball on the ground, rushing for 260 yards as a team. Redshirt-junior Shamar Greene led all Rock runners with 164 on 34 carries and a touchdown. Redshirt-sophomore Isiah Neely added 71 yards on 16 carries while quarterback Dante Nania rushed eight times for 41 yards and a score. When The Rock was up 41-19 heading into the fourth quarter, Mihalik made the decision to rest Greene to keep him fresh for what seemed like a sure win and a guaranteed game the next week.

However, after Assumption’s comeback, Mihalik had to make the decision to keep Greene on the bench and play Neely for the rest of the game because he feared Greene could get injured after losing his adrenaline from the rest and becoming cold.

Nania was able to throw for three touchdowns despite making just 10 completions on 28 attempts. Senior receiver Jaimire Dutrieuille caught two passes for 59 yards and a touchdown while redshirt-sophomore Cornelius Raye hauled in four passes for 33 yards and a touchdown. Redshirt-junior Leroy McClain was able to add another receiving touchdown while catching two passes for 31 yards.

Sophomore tight end Brian McNally also caught one pass for 36 yards during a fake punt on a pass from redshirt-senior running back Brett Crenshaw.

Other than Howard’s late interception, The Rock’s defensive effort was highlighted by a 52-yard fumble recovery returned for a touchdown by junior Joe Phillips.

Mihalik recognizes the challenge of his team remaining healthy and fresh while making a run deep into the playoffs because his players have not played this late into a season before.

“We are going to make some adjustments in practice to make it a little bit shorter,” Mihalik said. “We will travel Friday and that will be a good day for the guys to rest up. Our guys know what they have to do to keep their bodies fresh and ready to go.”

The win advances Slippery Rock to the round of eight of the Division II football playoffs where SRU will travel to Shepherd University to face the no. 1 seed in its super region. The undefeated Rams beat SRU’s archrival Indiana University (Pa.) 17-13 at home to advance.

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