A win is a win, and The Rock football will take it especially since they are now once again in control of their own destiny. Slippery Rock escaped their first of two straight trips to Erie with a win, and only hours later on the bus home they watched California University of Pennsylvania (Cal-U) defeat Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP).
In the rainy weather, The Rock made a lot of mistakes, and Mercyhurst University was able to use those to their advantage. On the opening kickoff, Mercyhurst decided to use some trickery on the opening kickoff with a pitch that was taken 70-yards all the way to the 15-yard line. It took all of three plays for The Lakers to put seven points on the board.
The Rock offense struggled early on and that continued throughout the game. The first two drives ended very quickly for Slippery Rock. The defense helped keep the deficit at only seven after the first quarter, regardless of two turnovers.
Evyn Holtz made his season debut and pounded the ball for 73-yards rushing, which led the team. The hope is that with Holtz back, the rushing attack will be more explosive. Holtz showed a glimpse of what he can do, but it was Chris D’Or who punched the ball in with a front flip touchdown to tie the game at seven to start the second quarter.
It looked as if Slippery Rock had all the momentum, until a pitch to Cinque Sweeting went haywire and suddenly Jehrod Gregory found himself in the end zone to once again give Mercyhurst the lead.
In a sloppy, wet game, The Rock found themselves playing catch up again. The offense continued to struggle, and it wasn’t until the end of the first half that they put another three points on the board. For the second time this season, they went into the half trailing the opposing team.
The second half wouldn’t be too much better for the struggling Rock offense. They came out and on three plays didn’t gain a single yard. Once again the defense held The Lakers offense and forced another three-and-out. The ensuing drive was eight plays and went 83-yards, with more than half of it coming on a single play.
The Rock finally took the lead nearly six minutes into the second half. It came off a 42-yard touchdown reception by Henry Litwin. The touchdown was Litwin’s eighth this season, and the reception also got him to 3,000 career receiving yards.
With players such as Litwin on the team, Slippery Rock’s offense has the ability to strike at any moment, which was something they desperately needed in this game.
History was looking to repeat itself. The last time The Rock lost to IUP, they turned around and lost a game on the road the next week. This game put them in danger of the doing the same thing. But the big play saved a sputtering offense and gave the Rock a 17-14 lead.
The fourth quarter was headlined by a 14-play drive by The Lakers that went 68-yards and took eight minutes and 59 seconds off the clock. They got all the way down to the four-yard line before being set back. They had to settle for a field goal, and they tied the game at 17.
They gave The Rock too much time, however, and with Noah Grover in at quarterback it took nine plays to go 52-yards. DJ Opsatnik made the go-ahead field goal with 1:24 left on the clock. The game was sealed by an interception from Isaiah Manning.
Although it was a sloppy day outside, The Rock was able to avoid the upset and keep their PSAC West title hopes alive. With the IUP loss, the game against Gannon University becomes even bigger, with a shot to play Cal-U for the opportunity to represent the PSAC West in the title game on the line.