After suffering a devastating loss to no. 13 Indiana (Pa.) University (5-1, 3-1) last Saturday, the Rock returns home to take on Edinboro University (6-1, 3-1) in its homecoming game.
Slippery Rock (5-2, 2-2) struggled on both sides of the ball against the Crimson Hawks in its last game. Despite equally poor performances, head coach Shawn Lutz put most of his focus into the offensive line this week.
“I wanted to see more fight out of our offensive line,” Lutz said. “I know they can do it, I believe in them, but it has to be better.”
The Rock was held to its lowest scoring game of the season against the Crimson Hawks. IUP held SRU to 120 yards on the ground. That is tied for the Rock’s second worst outing this year.
With redshirt senior running back Shamar Greene still out with an injury (shoulder), redshirt junior Isiah Neely is forced back into the starting position. Neely ran for only 46 yards and fumbled the ball against Indiana. Neely will need all the protection he can get if he wants to have a better performance against a defense who has held 4 out of 7 of its own opponents under 100 yards this season.
In their last 45-16 win over Mercyhurst University (2-5, 1-3), the Fighting Scots held the Lakers 96 yards. Lutz knows that the offensive line’s performance can make or break the outcome of the game.
“We put a lot of emphasis, get into their rear-ends, and make sure they come with the attitudes they need to so we can get this ball moving up and down the field,” Lutz said.
The offensive line will not be the only group that is tested. The Rock secondary has to deal with the fifth-ranked passing offense in the country, led by one of the top quarterbacks in the nation, junior quarterback Jake Sisson.
Sisson, a returning starter, has the second most passing touchdowns in the country (28) and the fourth most yards (2,482). He has connected with 10 receivers this season, three who have at least 40 catches for over 500 yards. Lutz described Sisson as a “gunslinger”.
“He could run if he needs to, but he is a thrower,” Lutz said. “He can really throw the ball.”
Though the Fighting Scots have impressive assets on offense and defense, Lutz said what really makes the difference with them is their confidence. He said he sees a team that believes in themselves and that they can win every game.
“Edinboro is a bunch of believers,” Lutz said. “They’ve been winning games. When you have confidence and you believe, you can do anything you want to do.”
Edinboro’s confidence could be an advantage over a Slippery Rock team that is down physically and mentally. While a win for Edinboro means they will continue to climb the rankings as a dominant team in the PSAC, the Rock is not only attempting to redeem themselves, but defend the longest active home game win streak in Division II football and a 7-year homecoming win streak.
The Rock will defend its win streaks this Saturday at 2 p.m. at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium, broadcast on ESPN 3.