It has been almost a year since Slippery Rock took a drive up I-79 to Erie to face off with the Gannon Golden Knights. In that matchup, The Rock took off and didn’t look back in a 63-21 victory. Current Rock quarterback, Noah Grover, threw an SRU record eight touchdown passes in that game.
On Saturday, the Golden Knights will venture down to Slippery Rock looking for revenge. The difference this year is that Gannon walks in with a perfect record in conference play- something Rock head coach Shawn Lutz isn’t taking lightly.
“If we want to make the NCAA playoffs, the margin for error is small now, because we really can’t lose,” Lutz said. “Whether they’re coming to our house or we’re going on the road, we’ve got to play with a sense of urgency and a chip on our shoulders.”
The hype for the game will be even bigger, as the spectacle of Slippery Rock homecoming will be going on. It’s been three years since The Rock pulled out a win on homecoming, with a 45-42 win over Indiana (Pa.).
“I’m fired up because it’s going to be a nice day and we’re going to have a lot of alum’s back, and hopefully it’ll get the Rock Rowdies fired up,” Lutz said. “It’s a meaningful game and Gannon is a tough opponent because they’re on top of the conference right now, and the way we look at it is that you have to beat the best and they’re number one.”
Last year’s homecoming was spoiled by the Crimson Hawks, who went home with a blowout win that was Slippery Rock’s first PSAC West loss in nearly three years. Since 2018, The Rock is 22-2 against the PSAC West. Gannon will look to give Slippery Rock just their third PSAC West in four years.
Gannon, a team who has been winless against Slippery Rock since 2013, has established themselves this year as a PSAC West contender. But they’ll face their first big test against a Slippery Rock team that has been dominant in the rushing game this season.
In order to pull out a win, Lutz knows that they’re going to have to continue to play stellar defense. But they need to be able to score off the opportunities given to them.
“I don’t think the keys to win are anything different, we’ve got to play inspiring football and get turnovers,” Lutz said.
Last week against Mercyhurst, The Rock had two interceptions, but they had nothing to show for them because they weren’t able to turn them into any points. They took a step in the right direction, but in order to have the turnovers matter, Lutz feels that they need to be able to get on the board after them.
On the offensive end, they’ll be going against a defense that will look very much like the Seton Hill defense they played a few weeks ago. Lutz knows that it’ll be a much different test than the Griffins, however.
“They play almost like a prevent defense and they run a 3-3 odd stack with people coming from everywhere,” Lutz said.
The Rock will look to get going early like last week. Jawon Hall has emerged after the past couple of weeks, but no touchdown of his was a bigger momentum shift for The Rock than his kick return right off the bat.
With Jacob Odom still sidelined, Hall will continue to have a big role in the offense. Hall has been able to beat defenders consistently and has impressed in his increased playing time.
With Gannon coming to town, The Rock will only have a few weeks of play left. Obviously, their PSAC West hopes are still alive, and while it will take help, they’ve got to take care of their own business first. That begins with giving Gannon their first PSAC loss of the season and climbing back to near the top of their standings.
Lutz feels that the best way to do that is to play their style of football.
“We’ve just got to go out and play that relentless style of football that we’re used to,” Lutz said.