For the second straight week, the Slippery Rock football team lost a game in heart-breaking fashion. This is The Rock’s third straight loss and four conference loss on the season.
On Saturday, for the first time ever, the Clarion University Golden Eagles claimed the Milk Jug trophy by defeating Slippery Rock. The Milk Jug was introduced in the 2010 season and every year since then The Rock had won it, but this year Clarion will take home the trophy.
Slippery Rock was without their top two quarterbacks in senior Don King III and freshman Nathaniel Musselman Saturday, so true freshman Augustus Necastro was thrust into the starting role. Necastro had finished the game against Edinboro the week before after King and Musselman were injured.
Rock head coach Shawn Lutz was not making excuses for how his team played Saturday.
“No excuse, you’ve got to give Clarion credit,” Lutz said. “They did what they needed to to win the game and we’ve just got to make more plays and bee more consistent.”
Necastro started off completing only one of three passes for 12 yards and a touchdown before being pulled for Musselman, who was healthy enough to play. The game was tied at seven when Necastro was removed.
Musselman led three drives, completing three of four pass attempts for 31 yards. Musselman could not lead The Rock to any points however, fumbling twice in the red zone and was then pulled and Necastro was reinserted into the game just before halftime. Now SRU was trailing 14-7 and on his first play back in Necastro connected with junior receiver Marcus Johnson for a 71-yard touchdown, retying the game.
Lutz said he was trying to play the quarterback with the hot hand early in the game.
“They both did a pretty good job, but Agustus I think had a little bit better control today,” Lutz said. “He made some plays, we had some inexperience on some things that we did but we’ve jut got to come and get better.”
The 14-14 score would hold at the half.
To open the second half, Necastro connected with junior receiver Cornelious Raye for a 30-yard touchdown and the Green and White took a 20-14 lead.
After trading punts, Clarion would find the end zone again and take a one-point 21-20 lead.
With just under 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter, freshman kicker Jake Chappla gave The Rock a narrow 23-21 lead on a 33-yard field goal.
After another trade of punts, Clarion, led by senior quarterback Connor Simmons, drove 63 yards down the field to score a touchdown and take a 27-23 lead.
With one minute and no timeouts left, Necastro and the Rock offense could not make it down the field and Clarion took home the Milk Jug for the first time ever.
Necastro finished 14-25 throwing for 209 yards and three touchdowns. Junior running back Isiah Neely ran 38 times for 170 yards, replacing injured senior Shamar Greene. Johnson, Raye and junior tight end Brian McNally all finished with three catches and one touchdown.
For Clarion Simmons finished 22-43 for 369 yards and four touchdowns.
On defense, senior Anthony Zappone had five tackles with an interception and a forced fumble and junior Marcus Martin had four tackles with 1.5 sacks.
Now at 5-4, Slippery Rock has no realistic shot at making the postseason and will focus on its last two games of 2016, facing Seton Hill University at home next Saturday.
“I’m just trying to worry about getting through this today and getting better,” Lutz said. “We’re pretty down so we can’t worry about Seton Hill until we figure out what went wrong against Clarion.”