“We don’t like them, they don’t like us. That’s just the way it goes.”
Rock head coach Shawn Lutz did not mix words as he and his team prepare to travel to Indiana University (Pa.) to play their biggest rival, The IUP Crimson Hawks.
“You can throw the records out. This is the most intense rivalry in Division II,” Lutz said. “I don’t have to get the kids excited this week so far in practice. They’re ready to play.”
The Rock (5-1) comes into the game having beaten Mercyhurst University 37-25 and climbing in the national rankings to no. 16 overall. IUP (4-1) is coming off a close loss to California University (Pa.) and falling in the rankings to no. 13 overall.
The Rock has owned the rivalry in recent years, besting the Hawks in three consecutive games. With a win Saturday, The Rock’four-yearar seniors would complete a perfect four-year sweep of SRU’s biggest rival, something that has not happened since 1948.
It will be an uphill battle for The Rock however, as senior All-American running back Shamar Greene will miss his second straight game with a shoulder injury and senior linebacker John Conglose will miss his third game with a concussion.
Filling in for Greene will be true freshman Dontez Rash, who will be making his second career start. Last week against Mercyhurst Rash ran for 102 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries, all career highs.
All-Conference senior center Joe Loschiavo, senior defensive end Cody Conway, senior linebackers Bob Vernick and Anthony Zappone will all be game-time decisions.
In order to win the game, SRU will have to slow down a high-powered IUP offense. IUP ranks second in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) in scoring with 51.8 points per game and first in rushing offense with 281.8 rushing yards per game. However, Slippery Rock boasts the best rushing defense in the conference, giving up only 78.2 rushing yards per game.
Lutz said he likes the match-up between IUP’s rushing attack and SRU’s rushing defense.
“Something’s going to give and I think it’s going to telling to who wins,” Lutz said. “Them running the football versus us stopping the run is a key to the match-up. I think that’s very important.”
After a slow start to the season, senior graduate-transfer quarterback Don King III has seemed to finally found his groove in the Slippery Rock offense. Last week King was 29-38 passing for 310 yards and two touchdowns. King is fifth in the PSAC in both passing yards (1,540) and passing touchdowns (12).
This could become a must-win game for The Rock if they want to win the PSAC-West, as no. seven ranked California University (Pa.) has already beaten both Slippery Rock and IUP. Two conference losses would be tough for Slippery Rock to recover from.