Slippery Rock University football looks to build upon their 3-0 record this weekend when the team travels to Erie, PA to take on Gannon University (1-2) after defeating Lock Haven University last week 33-7.
Coming into the weekends match-up, SRU football has moved from number 25 to 21 in this weeks American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) national coaches poll.
The Rock is coming off a victory where their star defensive end, redshirt senior Marcus Martin broke the all-time Division II records for both sacks and tackles for loss. Last week Gannon faced Bloomsburg University and fell 27-10 as they turned the ball over four times with two fumbles and two interceptions. The Rock defense has endured some injuries, especially at the linebacker position with six players down this week with injury.
“You gotta have that approach,” SRU football head coach Shawn Lutz said regarding a next man up mentality. “I tell the guys all the time when you get reps in practice you better capitalize on these reps because your name might be called on game day.”
Last week the Green and White offense was firing on all cylinders in both the passing and run game. Redshirt senior quarterback Tanner Garry threw for 213 yards and two scores and a pick. Garry currently ranks third in the nation in passing touchdowns with 11 while also third in the nation in passing yards per completion at 17.11.
The running game saw it’s first 100 yard rusher of the season as redshirt senior running back Isiah Neely rushed the ball 20 times for 111 yards and a touchdown. It had been five games dating back to last season when a Rock running back last rushed for more than 100 yards and it was Neely himself when he gained 173 against Clarion University.
“Its just going to open up more things if we can establish that running game,” Lutz said. “Lets face it, we have a young defense. If we can chew up some clock by running the football, that’s gonna help keep our defense off the field.”
The Green and White will look to continue their success against a Gannon defense that has given up an average of 120 rushing yards a game and an average of 226 yards through the air. Gannon’s offense has produced 14 touchdowns compared to The Rock’s 17.
In the passing game, SRU stands out as they have scored 11 times through the air, as Gannon has only produced three passing touchdowns. The running game is a different story as Gannon has rushed for 707 yards this season to Slippery Rock’s 318. This is due to the fact that Gannon’s running back, junior Marc Jones, leads Division II football in rushing yards with 524 yards on 58 carries for six touchdowns through just three games.
“Their running back is the key to that offense,” Lutz said. “He reminds you of a Jerome Bettis type. Basically it (the offense) goes through him and he’s a load.”
On average The Rock defense has surrendered 166 rushing yards per game this season which is the sixth most in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, (PSAC) while giving up five touchdowns on the ground.
“It’s a game where our weakness on defense, is their strength is on offense,” Lutz said. “But we are not overlooking Gannon based on their record. Our team knows what type of football team Gannon is and how hard it is to beat them on the road.”
In addition, Rock opponents have average 13 more minutes of possession than them. Though it might not be completely to blame, as The Rock’s fast-paced offense just averages 61.7 plays a game this year. On a side note, SRU has scored a single touchdown in the first quarter of each of their first three games, and has not aloud a single point in first quarter as well. The Rock actually has yet to trail in a game this season for a single second through three games, even against West Chester in week two.
Kick-off in Erie will begin at noon on Saturday at McConnell Family Stadium.