It has been 1,431 days since The Rock lost a regular season game on home turf. The streak is still alive after Saturday’s 22-7 win over East Stroudsburg University. A large part of that being due to the return of the fans after nearly two years,
After nearly two years, fans were able to return to the stadium to cheer on the team. Fans definitely showed up, with over 8,000 people attending the game. The last time The Rock opened up at home with that many fans in attendance was 2014.
“I want to compliment the crowd, I’ve been coaching for 25 years and I haven’t seen that many people in my life,” Coach Shawn Lutz said. “Especially the Rock Rowdies, I want to give a special shout out to them, and we hope can continue to have you come and that was just an awesome atmosphere for a game.”
The story in this game was one that The Rock is not used to: a defensive battle. Slippery Rock is used to putting up a lot of points and doing it quick. In 2019, the team averaged 46 points a game. Through the past two games, they have 46 points combined.
The game started out slow, as both teams first drives ended with three and outs. The Rock showed how quick their offense could get down field their second drive, going 77 yards in nine plays with only two minutes and eight seconds taken off the board. The drive ended with a missed field goal by DJ Opsatnik.
At the end of the first quarter, both teams were scoreless. The first points of the game didn’t come until the middle of the second quarter, when the Green and White finally got on the board with a field goal. The big play that helped swing the game’s momentum came right before half. Slippery Rock was able to get six more points on the board when Andrew Koester hit Cinque Sweeting for a 33-yard touchdown with only four seconds remaining in the half.
“It was lights out defense from both sides, but the bottom line is the play right before half was a really big play,” Lutz said. “To go up nine points like that before half was huge, and honestly it was a big difference.”
At the half, The Rock had 204 yards in total, while holding the Warriors to only 117 yards. The Rock defense was the difference, especially the run defense. East Stroudsburg’s run game produced over 300 yards in their first game, with 140 of them coming from Gunner Anglovich. Slippery Rock held him to just 21 yards in the first half and in total held the Warriors to only 51 yards on the ground on 19 attempts.
In the third quarter, The Rock defense was on the field for just over 12 minutes. In two minutes with the ball, The Rock outgained East Stroudsburg 177-112, with most of the yards coming on Chris D’Or’s 81-yard receiving touchdown. On the play, D’Or came out of the backfield and managed to find himself wide open on the left hash where Koester hit him. D’Or finished the rest in a footrace to the end zone. Opsatnik missed the extra point that followed and at the end of the quarter, Slippery Rock held a 15-0 lead.
The Green and White took control of the game after they opened the fourth quarter with a drive that was capped off by a one yard touchdown rush from Koester. East Stroudsburg answered back with a touchdown of their own to finally get points on the board. The score came from a nine-yard touchdown reception for Ezequiel Lopez from Matt DeLaurentis. The Rock held on to win the game 22-7 and improve to 2-0(1-0), while the Warriors dropped to 1-1(0-1).
Tim Smith led the game in rushing for both teams with 122 yards and D’Or led in receiving with two receptions for 86 yards and a touchdown. In Koester’s second game as starting quarterback for The Rock, he was able to put up 277 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, going 17-32.
“We’ve been in some games, man,” Lutz said. “Moving forward, I think we just need to continue to get better.”