The No. 10 ranked Slippery Rock football team defeated Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference rival Mercyhurst on Saturday in another convincing 45-14 road victory. The victory improves Slippery Rock’s record to 5-0 overall, and 2-0 in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Western Division. Mercyhurst falls to 2-3 overall and 0-2 in PSAC West play.
After Saturday’s victory, there are several impressive statistics to consider. The Rock have now won 11 consecutive PSAC West contests and have also beaten each opponent this season by at least 25 points.
However, the biggest story from The Rock’s convincing triumph over the Lakers is that Slippery Rock University’s kicker Jake Chapla has set the program’s all-time career scoring record with 318 points. The Green and White’s scoring record stood strong for nearly two decades, previously being set by Stan Kennedy in 2017.
Heading into The Rock’s fifth game of the season, the senior kicker only needed four points to break the record. The four-year starter had no shortage of opportunities as The Rock put up two touchdowns in the first quarter, both of which were followed by the ever reliable senior booting the football through the uprights.
Less than three minutes of regulation time passed before The Rock’s stout defense gave the ball back to the dynamic Slippery Rock offense, who put Chapla in position to break Slippery Rock’s scoring record once and for all.
Coaches, teammates and Slippery Rock fans alike were able to witness history happen in present time as the veteran kicker nailed a 37-yard field goal, breaking the 19-year old record. A culmination of four years of consistency and hard work finally paid off for number 99, but both him and the team knew that work still needed to be done as the first quarter concluded with Slippery Rock holding a 17-0 edge.
The Rock’s defense continued to give the Lakers fits to start the second quarter, as it only took a few plays to force Mercyhurst to punt. Slippery Rock then showed its ability to put points on the board in a hurry as redshirt junior Jermaine Wynn Jr. took the punt 70 yards for a touchdown, his second score of the day.
After going up 24-0, it looked as though The Rock would have another game where the starters get pulled to rest up for next week’s contest but Mercyhurst staved that reality off for at least another quarter of play. The Rock may have endured its sloppiest 10-minute span of play in 2019, as The Lakers scored 14 consecutive points and cut SRU’s lead down to 10.
After the Lakers microburst of scoring, Slippery Rock settled down and reestablished the pace of the game, putting together a 7 play, 43-yard drive which ended in senior Roland Rivers III scoring on a quarterback sneak, just before the first half expired.
Receiving the ball in the second half, the Green and White put together one of their longest drives of the season. Chewing up 7:10 of game clock, The Rock showed a balance offense, throwing the ball nine times and rushing it eight times. The drive was capped off by Rivers and redshirt junior Henry Litwin connecting for an 11-yard touchdown, giving SRU a 38-14 advantage.
After the touchdown, the defense forced yet another Mercyhurst punt, where Rivers and the starting offense would perform their final blow. Daring the Lakers to stop the run, The Rock rushed the ball time after time until they broke into the opponent’s 10-yard line. On the next play, Rivers tossed his fourth and final touchdown of the day to redshirt freshman Qaadir Dixon. After Chapla added on to Slippery Rock’s scoring record, The Rock led by a score of 45-14 heading into the fourth quarter.
After a short offensive drive early in the fourth quarter, Rivers along with most of the offensive starters were pulled from the game. The rest of the game featured Slippery Rock deploying a run-heavy offense to run out the clock while Mercyhurst’s offense continued to struggle. Slippery Rock’s defense recorded two interceptions and forced a turnover on downs in the fourth quarter to preserve a 45-14 victory.
Some notable performances from Saturday’s game include Wynn, who caught seven passes for 82 yards and a touchdown, while adding a 70-yard punt return touchdown. Rivers made sure to spread the love Saturday as all four of his touchdowns went to a different receiver (Litwin, Wynn, Dixon, Richards). After struggling to run the ball early in the season, The Rock has rushed for 410 yards over the last two weeks.
The Rock will look to keep the offensive balance going this upcoming Saturday, as they face their greatest challenge yet. The Rock will square off against rival Indiana University (Pa.) in their homecoming game this Saturday, a game which will likely determine the eventual PSAC West champion. The 94th game between the two rivals will kick off at 2 p.m. at Mihalik-Thompson stadium.