The last time an opposing football team came into Mihalik-Thompson Stadium at Slippery Rock University and left with a win was Nov. 10, 2012. The Rock had won 18 straight games at home and on Saturday night, The Gannon University Golden Knights found out just how difficult it is to win at SRU.
Gannon (3-0) was coming off of a victory over Bloomsburg University the week before and were looking to give no. 10 ranked Slippery Rock a tough contest.
Gannon came into the game averaging 241.7 rushing yards per game and SRU’s defense only gives up 45.3 rushing yards per game.
Rock head coach Shawn Lutz like the match-up going into the game.
“I’ll take a running football team against our defense anytime. We’re good against the run,” Lutz said. “A team that likes to run I’ll take any day because our guys like to get down hill and be physical.”
Things started out well for the Knights, as SRU senior quarterback Don King III fumbled the ball on The Rock’s first drive of the day, giving Gannon the ball at the SRU five-yard line.
Gannon was unable to capitalize however, as senior Rock linebacker Anthony Zappone sacked Gannon quarterback Zach Phillips on third down and the Knights has to settle for a field goal.
Zappone shined on the day, recording 12 total tackles, a sack and an interception.
After the rough start, King and The Rock offense caught fire. The offense would score on each of its next four possessions in the first quarter, with three touchdowns and a field goal.
King hit junior tight end Brian McNally and junior receiver Marcus Johnson with touchdown passes on back-to-back drives, then true freshman kicker Jake Chappla hit a 34-yard field goal and freshman running back Dontez Rash scored his first career touchdown to cap off the first quarter offensive explosion.
Gannon started to come back in the second quarter with 10 points, but Slippery Rock lead at the half 24-13.
The Rock defense came alive in the second half, shutting out the Knights, recording four more sacks and forcing two interceptions.
Every starter on the defensive line recorded at least 0.5 sacks and senior cornerback Alfon Cook recorded his third interception of the season late in the fourth quarter to seal the victory for Slippery Rock.
King connected with McNally once more for another touchdown and Chappla hit a 45-yard field goal in the second half to give The Rock the 34-13 victory.
King finished 34-49 passing for 370 yards and three touchdowns, Johnson finished with nine catches for 123 yards and a touchdown and McNally had two catches for 20 yards and the two touchdowns.
The offense seems to be becoming more comfortable with the tempo they want to run as they ran 96 plays for 498 yards.
Lutz liked the pace the offense was able to play at.
“I like the pace as long as they’re moving the football,” Lutz said. “That’s what we’ve been doing here, that’s how we’ve been successful, so I’m not going to change things that have worked for our football team.”
The win was the first for the Green and White in Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) West play.
The Rock will travel to play California University (Pa.) next weekend on Oct. 1.