Senior running back Wes Hills had arguably his best offensive performance of the season on Saturday, as The Rock rolled past Clarion University, defeating the Golden Eagles with a final score of 28-13 in the annual “Milk Jug game.”
The win improves SRU to 7-1 overall and 5-0 in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC). They are currently in first place and remain the only undefeated team in the PSAC West Division. Clarion falls to 4-4 (2-3) and sits at fifth place in the conference.
Clarion got on the board late in the first quarter as they kicked a field goal with 2:55 left in the quarter to give the Golden Eagles the 3-0 lead. Clarion would carry that lead into the second quarter until Hills ran the ball two yards to get The Rock on the board. Junior kicker Jake Chapla would kick the point after to make the score 7-3 in favor of The Rock. Just over six minutes later, junior quarterback Roland Rivers III would connect with redshirt junior tight end Zack Cirillo for a 19-yard touchdown to give the Green and White a 14-3 lead heading into halftime.
Clarion would strike back less than two minutes into the start of the second half when running back Mylique McGriff ran the ball for a one-yard touchdown. Kicker James Metzgar would kick the point after to cut The Rock’s lead to 14-10.
Rivers would connect with redshirt sophomore wide receiver Jermaine Wynn Jr. for a nine-yard touchdown to make the score 21-10, following the point after from Chapla. Wynn Jr. would catch another touchdown pass, this one a 41-yarder, from Rivers in the fourth quarter to give The Rock their fourth and final touchdown of the afternoon.
Metzgar would kick another field goal for Clarion with 8:26 left in the game to make the score 28-13. Neither team could muster any more offense as The Rock would go on to win the game.
Rivers continued his impressive debut season for The Rock as he threw for 217 yards and three touchdowns on 17 completions. He also ran for 72 yards on 11 attempts. Hills recorded a season-high 206 rushing yards while also recording a touchdown and 24 receiving yards on five receptions.
Wynn Jr. led SRU’s receiving core, recording 90 receiving yards for two touchdowns on six receptions. Junior Austin Scott and redshirt sophomore Henry Litwin each caught one pass for 36 and 25 yards, respectively. Cirillo, redshirt junior Mike Merhaut, and senior Carnel Harley combined for 42 receiving yards with one touchdown on four receptions.
Defensively, The Rock was led by redshirt sophomore linebacker Tim Vernick. Vernick recorded 12 tackles, one sack for 10 yards, and forced one fumble. For his performance on Saturday, Vernick was awarded the PSAC West Defensive Athlete of the Week.
Junior Brad Zaffram and redshirt sophomore Chad Kuhn combined for 18 tackles, with the latter of the two recording one sack for eight yards. Redshirt junior Trey Blandford recorded four tackles and one sack for three yards. Kuhn and Blandford currently rank in the top five in the PSAC in sacks with 7.5 and seven, respectively.
With the win, The Rock has been placed ninth in the NCAA Division II Super Region One rankings, according to Rock Athletics.
The win also allows The Rock to retain possession of the Milk Jug, a tradition with Clarion University that dates back to 2010. The Rock is now 8-1 in “Milk Jug games.”
The Rock will take on California University (Pa.) on Saturday in what should be one of Slippery Rock’s toughest matchups yet this season. Kickoff against the Vulcans (5-3/4-1) is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Adamson Stadium in California, Pennsylvania.