On a cool, overcast Saturday night in Slippery Rock, a roaring crowd could be heard celebrating throughout campus, celebrating touchdown after touchdown. The Rock cruised to its third victory, improving to a pristine 3-0 record after beating Millersville 49-0. Slippery Rock has now outscored the Marauders 227-27 in their past four contests.
It was almost a given that anytime Roland Rivers III held the football that the Slippery Rock faithful could expect a big play. And when it wasn’t Rivers’ turn to operate one of the most elite offenses in Division II, it was the defense denying a Marauder ball carrier any success time after time.
A complete game from start to finish, head coach Shawn Lutz had nothing but positive words to say about his team.
“I don’t think there was any doubt that we were going to win the football game, but the way we did it from start to finish was just awesome,” Lutz said.
From the opening kickoff, the team wearing the white and green jerseys were playing faster, harder and with a greater purpose. Only a handful of plays into the game, The Rock recorded the first of its many big plays on the night when junior Khadir Roberts came up with an interception to set up Rivers and the offense with great field position.
After a long catch and run by senior running back Charles Snorweah, SRU found themselves knocking on the door to score on the Millersville two-yard line. Shortly after, an already familiar sight occurred when Rivers and junior receiver Henry Litwin connected for a touchdown that put The Rock on the board first.
An early candidate for the Harlon Hill trophy, Rivers was only getting started. The defense made sure to get the ball back to their highly talented offense as early and often as possible, recording two turnovers and allowing zero first downs in the first quarter. On the other side of the ball, the combination of Rivers and his highly versatile receiving corps gave fits to the Millersville defense.
It only took Rivers one quarter to put up better statistics than most quarterbacks do in an entire game. Despite only throwing the ball 12 times, Rivers completed nine passes for 165 yards and four touchdowns. After the first 15 minutes of play, The Rock enjoyed a 28-0 advantage.
The Rock would continue to dominate in the second quarter, putting up another pair of touchdowns that would give SRU a more than comfortable 42-0 lead at halftime. Starting off strong has been one of the Green and White’s many strengths this season, since the start of the 2019 season, Slippery Rock has outscored their opponents by a 118-24 margin in the first half.
Looking at those types of numbers speaks to the preparedness and overall efficiency of the team, something that would excite any coach. While acknowledging the performance of his team, he made it known that there isn’t a thing from the offense, defense, or special teams that doesn’t go unnoticed.
Lutz went on to say that although the efficiency is ‘pretty good’ in his mind, but it’s all three phases of the game that make the whole thing work.
After halftime, The Rock picked up right where they left off. After stuffing the Marauders on consecutive drives, Rivers found junior Cinque Sweeting for his sixth passing touchdown of the game. Sweeting reeled in a pass over the middle and showcased his elite speed and elusiveness, maneuvering and running by Millersville defenders for an 87-yard touchdown to put an exclamation point on a career performance.
Now up 49-0, the starters gave way to the second and third string players who were able to preserve the shutout while getting in some valuable playing time. The Rock would keep their foot on the gas all the way up until the clock struck zero in the fourth quarter, capturing their first shutout victory since 2015.
Out of all the great performances on Saturday night, it was Rivers and Sweeting’s turn to show their chemistry and big play capability. Sweeting made his presence known in only his third game with The Rock, putting up six catches for 187 yards and three touchdowns while Roland Rivers lit up the stat sheet once again, completing 21 of 26 passes for 339 yards and six touchdowns.
After spending his first three seasons at Seton Hill, Sweeting has found a home at Slippery Rock and a very important role in the offense. Even after the most productive night of his collegiate career, Sweeting made sure to credit his success to his teammates and coaches.
“It feels good that the coaches trust in me and I’m just out there doing my job,” Sweeting said. “The receivers are out there blocking and the (offensive line) is giving Roland time, everyone is doing their job too.”
With such a deadly passing attack, Sweeting smiled as he talked about his fellow receivers and what problems they pose to defenses on a weekly basis.
“Our receiving corps is crazy,” Sweeting said. “Litwin, he’s mister do-it-all, he’s gonna move the chains for us. Jermaine is gonna take the top off (the defense), Qaadir is gonna go up and win those jump balls and I’m just trying to get in where I get in.”
Sweeting, Litwin, and Wynn all rank within the top 15 in all of Division II in terms of receiving yards. Wynn and Sweeting are in a tie for second in the nation for receiving touchdowns with five each while Litwin leads all receivers with six touchdowns. And not to mention, the offense leads the nation in terms of scoring, averaging 55 points per game. Those types of stats are extremely difficult to put up in video games, let alone real life.
Up next, Sweeting gets to face his former team as Slippery Rock travels to Seton Hill for a 2 p.m. contest.