After barely escaping last week with the win at home, the Slippery Rock University football team was looking to win its second straight game against West Chester University on their home turf.
It was 301 days ago when The Rock went into Farrell Stadium and embarrassed The Golden Rams 61-12 in the 2015 Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Championship game. Both teams look very different from when they last met and West Chester was undoubtedly looking for revenge.
After a long battle in 100 degree heat, the Green and White were able to hold on and win 36-28, despite being out-gained on offense 500 yards to 341 and being dominated in time of possession 39:52 to 20:08. An inspired performance by The Rock defense and two broken records were just enough for Slippery Rock to leave with the win.
SRU head coach Shawn Lutz thought it was a big win for his team.
“We played better than we did the first week,” Lutz said. “Anytime you can beat a quality opponent like that on the road you’re going to be happy.”
The Green and White started off slow, but an interception by senior cornerback Alfon Cook in the first quarter set up the Slippery Rock offense at the West Chester two yard line, prime position to score the game’s first points. On the first play of the drive, senior running back Shamar Greene took the ball into the end zone for his first touchdown of the day.
The West Chester offense would respond with a touchdown of their own, but that’s when Slippery Rock would start to take over.
Graduate-transfer Don King III started his second straight game for The Rock at quarterback and appeared to still be settling into the SRU offense. King completed just 13 of 30 pass attempts for 171 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. King also added 26 yards on the ground on seven carries.
King would connect with senior receiver Leroy McClain and junior receiver Cornelius Raye for touchdowns in the second quarter. McClain finished with three catches for 31 yards and Raye finished with four for 39.
True freshman kicker Jake Chappla missed on his first two extra point tries, but would hit on the third and drill a 23-yard field goal. Cook and senior linebacker Bob Vernick each collected interceptions, for Cook his second, to keep West Chester off the scoreboard for the rest of the half. The Rock would take a 22-7 advantage into halftime.
The Golden Rams would score again on their first drive of the second half, on the first play of the next Rock possession, King hit junior Marcus Johnson in stride for a 56-yard touchdown reception, Johnson’s only catch of the day.
West Chester would again respond, making it a 29-21 game at the start of the fourth quarter.
Greene would find the end zone a second time on the following Rock drive to put SRU back up by two scores 36-21. Greene finished with the two touchdowns and 117 rushing yards, giving him 4,033 rushing yards in his career. This makes Greene SRU’s only 4,000-yard rusher and breaks Stan Kennedy’s former SRU record of 3,932.
The Golden Rams would score one final touchdown, but it was not enough as The Rock pulled out the 36-28 victory.
WCU quarterback Andrew Derr lit up The Rock secondary on the day, completing 31 of 62 passes for 435 yards in the air. However, The Rock defense only allowed 65 rushing yards and forced West Chester to turn the ball over four times on downs to limit their scoring chances.
“We made stops when we needed to. They got into the red zone and we made some stops,” Lutz said. “I look at two stats on defense that I’m really concerned with; how many points you give up and how many turnovers you create.”
The defense was led by Cook with his two interceptions, Vernick with his one pick and 10 tackles, senior linebacker Anthony Zappone with 12 tackles and junior defensive end Marcus Martin with eight tackles and two sacks.
The two sacks pushed Martin’s career total to 35.0, passing the all-time PSAC record of 33.5 held by West Chester’s Andrew Cohen. Martin breaks the record in only 28 career games, with the rest of his junior year and all of his senior year left to play.
SRU has another long trip next week as the team travels to Lock Haven University to take on the 0-2 Eagles for the first time since 2012.