After a long 628 days, Rock football is finally back. After an impressive pull-away win, Slippery Rock sits ranked at number eight in all of Division II nationally.
The team prepared in the off-season and came ready to get back to work. The Rock traveled to Wayne State University with a win in the back of their minds.
Slippery Rock’s very own Henry Litwin made his debut on the big screen nationwide Thursday. His one-handed tumble into the endzone scored him a touchdown and the number two play on Sports Center’s Top 10 college football openers. The play against Wayne State earned him Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) West Offensive Athlete of the Week. His 159 yards set him ahead of all other receivers as well.
The streak from last year continued starting off the season 1-0 and picked up their 21st consecutive win. Compared to last year’s game, this one was much closer. The final seconds of the game decided who would win, whereas last year it was a blowout. For the vast majority of the game, Slippery Rock fell behind Wayne State. It wasn’t until Henry Litwin made an NFL worthy catch that the intensity grew.
Going into halftime, The Rock was down 14-0 but rallied to earn a 24-21 advantage going into the 4th quarter. Tim Smith and Andrew Koester came up big for Slippery Rock to add points on the board. For the remainder of the game, The Rock played tough defense, enough to hold out the lead and prevent any more touchdowns from The Warriors.
In the final minutes of the game, The Warriors had a chance to take the game or tie it. Isaiah Manning, Garrett de Bien and Cody Ross all prevented extra yards from being gained. With seconds remaining and a good field placement at the third yard line, Wayne State went for the winning touchdown and failed.
From that position, they could have got a game-tying field goal and had the chance at an overtime victory. However, after two field goals and one extra point were missed earlier in the game, it seemed like their best bet.
The victory was sealed with 18 seconds remaining when Manning, in his first career start along with de Bein got ahold of The Warriors quarterback for a two-yard loss. It was an inconsistent game, and everyone needed to shake off the rust from the offseason. However, the end goal was to win, and they did exactly that.
There were a few fumbles and turnovers, but nothing out of the ordinary coming off such a long break in gameplay.
Koester connected with Jermaine Wynn Jr. to add to the total 403-303 advantage in offensive throwing, rushing for 89 and throwing for 314. The leading rusher, Koester, also accounted for a total of 10 carries. Wayne State Warriors completed 247 yards and threw for a total of 56 yards.
Defensively, Dalton Holt, Trysten McDonald and Chad Khun allotted tackles, stops and sacks to squeeze out the three-point victory. Khadir Roberts and Selvin Haynes also came up strong for the Rock defense. Kyle Sheets, Cinque Sweeting and Wynn Jr. caught a combined 145 yards.
Coach Lutz keeps his men in top shape to compete in every game. It all paid off and the plan is to not stop until they reach their goals; PSAC Champions and National Champions. This is their year.
Slippery Rock will open its conference season with a home opener this Saturday, Sept. 11 at the Milhalik-Thompson Stadium at 6 p.m. facing East Stroudsburg. They’ll remain home for back-to-back weekends taking on Lock Haven Sept. 18 at 6 p.m. for another PSAC West conference game.