Heartbreaking, last-second loss to Edinboro spoils homecoming, home winning streak

Published by adviser, Author: Cody Nespor - Sports Editor, Date: October 23, 2016
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Slippery Rock football had not lost a home game since Nov. 12, 2012.

There were three seconds left in regulation, Slippery Rock led Edinboro 35-31.

Junior corner back Titus Howard was flagged for pass interference on what would have been the last play of the game. With triple zeros on the clock Edinboro got one untimed play from the SRU two yard line.

Edinboro quarterback Jake Sisson completed a pass to receiver James Clark. Clark walked into the end zone and Edinboro won 37-35.

Slippery Rock players stood in disbelief, fans booed, Edinboro players celebrated and the longest home winning streak in all of Division-II football was snapped.

Saturday was supposed to be a day for celebration at Slippery Rock University. It was homecoming, conference sportsmanship week and a three day state-wide faculty strike had just ended. The Rock was returning home after a blowout loss to their biggest rival the week before and The Rock never losses at home.

On Wednesday SRU head coach Shawn Lutz said a win on Saturday could make everything that went on this week go back to normal.

“School’s not going on and the students are in limbo a little bit right now,” Lutz said. “This is a positive thing for everybody. A win would normalize what is going on with this strike right now.”

Unfortunately, there is nothing normal about Slippery Rock losing at home.

The Edinboro Fighting Scots have been the biggest surprise in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) so far this year. After going win-less in 2015 they improve to a 7-1 record after Saturday’s win and have a chance to play in the PSAC Championship game in three weeks.

Slippery Rock falls to 5-3 and is now all but eliminated from postseason play. After winning three straight PSAC-West titles, there is nothing normal about Slippery Rock missing the postseason.

Slippery Rock out-gained Edinboro 442 to 267, intercepted the Scots five times, held Edinboro to 19 rushing yards, but committed 15 penalties and fumbled the ball nine time.

Slippery Rock scored the first ten points of the game thanks to a field goal by freshman Jake Chappla, an interception by sophomore cornerback Kyle Hall and a touchdown catch by junior receiver Cornelius Raye.

That is when the game started to get away from The Rock. Howard was ejected from the game due to a targeting penalty and SRU graduate-transfer quarterback Don King III was an unimpressive 12-23 through the air for only 100 yards before having to be removed from the game in the second quarter after taking a hit to the head.

Back-up freshman quarterback Nathanial Musselman entered the game and did not complete a pass in five attempts. Edinboro scored three touchdowns in Howards’s absence to build a 24-13 halftime lead.

Edinboro scored again at the start of the second half and held a commanding 31-13 lead. Just when it looked like things could not get worse for Slippery Rock, Musselman was tackled out of bounds and came up limp. He had to be carried off the field and freshman quarterback Augustus Necastro entered a game for the first time in his young career.

Despite being down by  18 points with their third-string quarterback in Slippery Rock did not stop fighting. Necastro orchestrated two straight touchdown drives, the first completing his first career touchdown pass to senior Drew Scales and the second a five yard run by junior running back Isiah Neely. Neely, filling in for the injured Shamar Greene, ran the ball 29 times for 135 yards and caught five passes for 69 yards.

Necastro has not seen a lot of reps in practice this year and said that he was not going to play conservatively.

“I was just going to let it all hang out. It’s not like they could’ve pulled me,” Necastro said. “So I was like ‘might as well give it a go and try my best.'”

Then, with less than seven minutes to play in the fourth quarter, down by three points Necastro marched the SRU offense 87 yards in 14 plays, throwing his second touchdown of the day to junior Marcus Johnson to take a 35-28 lead with 57 seconds left.

That’s when Sisson lead Edinboro on what have been the biggest drive of his career. 52 seconds, two pass interference calls on Slippery Rock and one touchdown pass later Sisson and Edinboro escaped from Mihalik-Thompson Stadium with something no visiting team had left with since 2012, a win.

Lutz thought the ejection call on Howard in the first half and the pass interference on Howard on the would-be last play were both incorrect.

“I’ve never been around as inconsistent officiating in my entire years of coaching,” Lutz said after the game. “It’s just a shame that that game couldn’t have been decided by the kids that worked so hard. I usually never talk about officiating but I got to bring it up in this one. It’s a shame and the conference has got to get it right.”

Necastro finished 17-22 for 187 yards and two touchdowns.

Lutz said he wanted to give Necastro full control of the offense when he had to fill in.

“I said to coach [Justin] Ropper ‘We recruited Augustus for a reason. He’s intelligent, he’s a winner and in we’re going to go down today we’re going to go down with the playbook wide open,'” Lutz said. “(Necastro)’s a very smart and intelligent young man and we weren’t going to condense the playbook. We were going to go down swinging.”

Lutz said King may have a serious concussion and Musselman had a lower leg injury, so Necastro is the starting quarterback for the time being.

Hall, who was filling in due to injury, finished with three interceptions.

Luts was proud of the way his team fought back through adversity throughout the game.

“Our kids really don’t ever quit,” Lutz said. “We didn’t win that game on the scoreboard, but there should be nobody ashamed of what they did out on that football field. At the end of the day life’s not always fair, but they’re winners in my book.”

Slippery Rock has three games left on the schedule after Saturday and Lutz said not matter what the playoff picture looks like they are going to play hard.

“I promise you this, our team’s not going to quit,  not going to give up, they’re going to give you their best,” Lutz said. “I know we make things crazy out there, don’t make anything easy, but they won’t stop fighting.”

Slippery Rock is back on the road next weekend to face rival Clarion in the annual “Milk Jug Game.”

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