As the year winds down, each game becomes more and more important. A game against a 4-5 team may not seem to be very important, but The Rock isn’t going to take their matchup with the Edinboro Fighting Scots lightly.
Edinboro is a team that just one year ago put the final nail in the coffin on Slippery Rock’s archrival, Indiana (Pa.)’s, season with a stunning 21-17 win on the road. In a way, it is very eerie how similar the two situations are.
The Rock hosts Edinboro with only one loss on the season, just like the Crimson Hawks last year. But Slippery Rock will look to avoid an upset that would likely mean the end of a promising season.
“Edinboro is dangerous because they play so hard, and last year they beat IUP,” head coach Shawn Lutz said. “We’re still treating every game like it’s a playoff game, and this week against Edinboro we have a shot to get a share of the PSAC West title for the fourth straight year.”
Things once again come back to IUP. Last week, they saw their perfect season get tainted by Gannon, who pulled out a 43-36 win over the Crimson Hawks. Now, while they are still in the driver’s seat to go to the title game, they may have to share the title of PSAC West champs.
Now The Rock will come in sitting at tenth in the country, but Lutz wants to make sure that they act like that.
“If you’re ranked tenth in the country, you’ve got to act like that and we’ve got to leave no doubt,” Lutz said. “We just have to make sure that our guys are ready to go.”
Slippery Rock was also ranked fifth in the super region one rankings this week. So, things are beginning to get more and more real as the regular season clock winds down.
The goal this week will be limit Edinboro big plays. The Rock has been able to limit big plays in general this season, but in a game where a team doesn’t have anything to lose, they immediately become much more dangerous.
“We need to limit them big plays and trick plays, because they’re a team that’s not really playing for anything,” Lutz said.
On the flip side, Lutz wants to get the run game back on track after they’ve struggled to get it going in the past two games. But he feels that they still have the group that will be able to get it done at a high level.
“[It’ll be huge] to get our run game going early, because we have done that in the past two weeks, so I’ll be keeping an eye on that,” Lutz said.
Lucky for them, the Fighting Scots have allowed over 2,000 yards on the ground this season. With The Rock’s backfield, it gives them a perfect opportunity to build some momentum and give the offense a spark in the run game.
But should there be any problems, Lutz knows they have a very good quarterback they can fall back on. Noah Grover passed for over 400 yards and three touchdowns in a road victory this past week. But the duo of Grover and Kyle Sheets has been getting hotter and hotter each week. It’ll be another aspect to keep an eye on.
The Rock’s defense also put up another great performance this past week, posting their first shutout of the season. Lutz acknowledged how hard it is to earn a shutout, but it is even harder when you play in a conference like the PSAC.
But every game has become a do or die situation for Slippery Rock. They know that the margin for error is slim to none, and any missteps could mean that they slide out of the playoffs. So according to Lutz, they need to take control early and not let go of it.
“We can’t let anybody play with us, the sense of urgency needs to be at an all-time high,” Lutz said.