When senior quarterback Roland Rivers III completed a 10-yard dart over the top of the Gannon defense to junior wide receiver Cinque Sweeting in the end zone, he set off a chain of Slippery Rock football records falling over the course of Saturday afternoon.
Rivers’ first touchdown pass of the game, the 33rd of the season and the 61st of his Slippery Rock career, simultaneously broke the SRU single-season and career passing touchdown records. And he wasn’t done there.
Rivers threw for 293 yards and four touchdowns against the Golden Knights (2-8, 1-6 PSAC), extending his totals to 3,107 yards (fifth best in Division II football), 36 passing touchdowns (second best) and a passing efficiency rating of 197.60 (the best) to lead Slippery Rock (10-0, 7-0 PSAC) to a 56-7 victory.
The Harlon Hill candidate will likely have at least two more games to chase former Rock quarterback Nigel Barksdale’s single-season passing record of 3,736 yards.
Like Slippery Rock head coach Shawn Lutz wanted before the game, Gannon won the opening toss and deferred to the second half. Slippery Rock started the game with possession, but a fumble from junior running back DeSean Dinkins gave Gannon a short field to score on.
The Golden Knights capitalized on the rare turnover and opened the scoring early in the first quarter.
Slippery Rock proceeded to rattle off 56 unanswered points.
A quick strike drive capped off by a Dinkins’ touchdown dive was followed by Rivers connecting with Sweeting from 10 yards out to cap off the first quarter.
The second quarter was more of the same as senior running back Charles Snorweah returned to the field for the first time in a few weeks with a 7-yard touchdown run. The touchdown was sandwiched between a pair of touchdowns from junior receivers Henry Litwin and Jermaine Wynn, Jr.
Rivers and freshman receiver Qaadir Dixon hooked up for a 14-yard touchdown in the middle of the third quarter, and Rivers wouldn’t see the field again.
Possibly feeling left out, the defense jumped in on the scoring when redshirt sophomore linebacker Arison Sanders picked up a Gannon fumble and took it 21 yards to the end zone.
With Rivers out of the game, backup quarterback Andrew Koester came into the game and hooked up with Litwin for his second touchdown of the game, his 13th of the season.
The extra point by senior kicker Jake Chapla was the second of a series of records broken at McConnell Family Stadium.
Chapla’s sixth field goal of the game broke a tie with former Bloomsburg kicker Dan Fisher to set the all-time Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference scoring record.
The leading scorer in Slippery Rock history became arguably the best kicker in conference history. While battling through a couple injuries this season, Chapla’s accuracy has taken a hit (a career-low 56.25%), but he is just 12 field goals away from Fisher’s career mark of 57.
With neither team scoring in the fourth quarter, Slippery Rock coasted to a 56-7 victory to wrap-up a second consecutive unbeaten run in the PSAC-West.
Rivers completed passes to eight different receivers against Gannon, with Litwin and Wynn leading the way.
Litwin extended his PSAC-leading receiving totals to 963 yards on nine catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns. Wynn’s five catches for 93 yards and a score kept him just behind Litwin with 919 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Dixon and Sweeting also caught touchdown passes in the game.
In his first game since Edinboro in Week 7, Snorweah ran the ball eight times for 64 yards and a score. Dinkins chipped in with 39 yards on seven carries and another touchdown.
Leading by 49 in the fourth quarter, freshman wide receiver Cam Marett carried the ball 10 times for 57 yards, including a 30-yard dash.
Even the defense jumped in on the scoring with Sanders’ touchdown return in the third quarter.
The defense allowed a touchdown on a short field after the Dinkins’ fumble but clamped down on the Gannon offense afterward.
Senior linebacker Brad Zaffram led Slippery Rock with 10 tackles and extended his PSAC-leading 18 tackles for loss with 2.5 against Gannon. Sanders racked up eight tackles and a fumble recovery.
Redshirt junior linebacker Chad Kuhn became the first player in the PSAC to reach double digit sack totals this season, notching a sack to increase his total to 10.5 this season.
By starting the season 10-0, Slippery Rock locked up the best start in its 121 year history. For the first time in history, SRU went unbeaten in the regular season.
The last unbeaten season came all the way back in 1974, going 9-0-1. With a regular season opener coming at a Division I program, the Slippery Rock teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s often started with an early loss.
Slippery Rock will have a chance to build on its 10-0 start and clinch its first PSAC championship since the 2015 season Saturday at Kutztown.
The PSAC-East champions will clash with Slippery Rock in a battle of 10-0 teams. Coincidentally, Kutztown has reached 10-0 for the first time in program history as well.
The game which will take place in Kutztown, after Slippery Rock hosted the game last season. The East and West division winners switch home games each season.
Kickoff is likely to be either 12 p.m. or 3 p.m.