After sweeping divisional play a year ago, No. 10 Slippery Rock football team will look to register their first divisional win of 2019 on Saturday as they hit the road to take on Seton Hill.
Naturally, every divisional game has some added importance to it, but for Cinque Sweeting, this game is a bit more personal. After posting a standout year at Seton Hill in which he accumulated over 800 yards of offense and five touchdowns, Slippery Rock’s newest star receiver gets a chance to remind his former team of his skillset.
Head coach Shawn Lutz describes Sweeting’s approach and what to expect as he prepares to oppose the team he once played for.
“He’s excited and if you heard (Sweeting) at our press conference last week, he talked about how much he loves our program and how the difference between the two is like night and day,” Lutz said. “Those guys are probably gonna talk a little extra to (Sweeting) and for him he wants to play his best game against his former team.”
Sweeting is coming off his best performance of his collegiate career after shredding Millersville to the tune of 185 yards and three touchdowns and now he has a chance to do the same against one of the weaker secondaries in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. Despite Sweeting’s big playmaking ability and will to put up big numbers against his former team, Lutz emphasized that Sweeting is in no way cocky about his aspirations, rather he is grateful for the opportunity to play another game, especially against Seton Hill.
Heading into Saturday’s game, both teams are trending in opposite directions, as The Rock heads into Saturday having outscored their first three opponents of the season 165-56, while Seton Hill has stumbled to an 0-2 start, averaging nine points per game.
Though the odds of winning weigh heavily in Slippery Rock’s favor, this week’s matchup serves as a reminder to never underestimate the opponent.
In a similar scenario in 2015, Slippery Rock fielded one of their most talented teams of the 21st century as they traveled to Seton Hill. The Rock was ranked No. 14 in the nation with a 3-0 record and were the massive favorite to win the game. However, the Griffins stood tall against one of the nation’s best teams and sent Slippery Rock back home reeling after delivering a 41-38 upset victory.
Both head Lutz and his talented team know that anything can happen within a 60-minute game and to not overlook the underdog, citing the Griffins’ areas of talent at wide receiver and running back. However, The Rock does pose some colossal challenges for a relatively inexperienced Seton Hill defense. Slippery Rock boasts the highest scoring offense in all of Division II (55.0 PPG), featuring the likes of the nation’s leader in passing touchdowns, Roland Rivers III and his deadly trio of wide receivers, Henry Litwin, Jermaine Wynn Jr., and Sweeting.
All four players rank somewhere within the top two of their respective position in terms of touchdowns scored as well. Rivers leads the nation with 16 passing touchdowns in three games, six of which went to Litwin, who in turn leads the nation in receiving touchdowns. Not far behind are Wynn and Sweeting who are tied for second most receiving touchdowns with five each.
Most teams aspire to have a star receiver that can pose problems for defenses, but The Rock as three dominant receivers to lean on, who can change the game in the blink of an eye. As the offense continues to rack up yards and points at a record setting pace, it can be easy to overlook the team’s defense. However, the Green and White possess an underrated defense that has only allowed an average of 18.7 points per game.
Slippery Rock’s defense has been a force to be reckon with this season as well, forcing two turnovers last week against Millersville while also being tied for sixth in the nation in terms of sacks (12). Lutz stated that he has been impressed with the defense’s steady improvement through three weeks, especially when it comes to the front seven.
“I don’t think there’s two better defensive ends in our league than Garrett de Bien and Chad Kuhn,” Lutz said. “Another one is Jeff Marx. He doesn’t necessarily show up in the stats but he’s probably our most viable player on defense,” Lutz said as he indicated that the 6’0 295-pound defensive tackle clogs up the line of scrimmage.
Lutz went on to explain that there so many great things he could say about both the offense and the defense, but one area of consistent concern has been the inability to establish a running game. Through three games, Rivers is the leading rusher by a 30-yard margin, which is an area of concern for Lutz and his team.
Lutz went on to say that he believes in the abilities of each of his running backs, but he needs someone to step up into the featured role before week six when rival Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) comes to town. But to be fair, when Rivers and co. are putting up record numbers, how could one really complain? Much can change within a span of two weeks and with an offense working as smoothly as the Green and White’s, there is no actual cause for concern.
Slippery Rock will look to put together another strong performance in their second road contest of the season on Saturday, as kickoff against the Griffins is scheduled for 2 p.m.