Opening day is hard in every sport. Practice gives a good barometer for talent, but it is impossible to fully predict how players will perform and how they will play as a unit.
Sometimes teams get stuck in the mud out of the gate, but oftentimes all they need is one big play to get going. Wide receiver Logan Ramper provided that play last Saturday versus Wayne State University.
In what was a scoreless game for almost a full half, quarterback Brayden Long heaved a 35-yard pass to the right side of the endzone: a true 50-50 ball. Ramper high-pointed the ball over a defender who was all over him for the go-ahead score.
“I knew it was press coverage,” Long said. “I just gave my guy a shot.”
The Rock defense followed suit. Junior defensive back Josh Stokes jumped an Eli McLean pass for an interception.
Running back Khalid Dorsey had a 31-yard rush to bring the Green and White inside the 10-yard line, then hauled in a pass from Long for the score.
“That’s huge,” Slippery Rock head coach Shawn Lutz said. “You wanna be up two scores because they get the ball at the start of the second half. Think about if we didn’t score there and they score to open the second half–it’s a tied ballgame.”
Those drives were part of an SRU run of four straight touchdown-scoring drives. All three of the Green and White’s running back trio ended up scoring a touchdown to go along with their elite rushing efficiency throughout the night.
Chris D’Or and Isiah Edwards plunged their way in on the ground on the latter two drives after Dorsey scored his.
“The type of offense we run, it’s very fast,” D’Or said.
The three rushed a total of 27 times, and Lutz was happy with the production. “Our yards per carry at running back was exceptional. Dorsey was 8.4, D’Or was 6.3 and Isiah was 7.4,” Lutz said.
Those four scores brought The Rock’s total to 28 in a game they never trailed.
In between Slippery Rock’s offensive success, Wayne State University was able to rush in two touchdowns and kick a field goal, but it was never enough to bring the game back within one score after D’Or’s touchdown.
Lutz noted postgame that Wayne State’s creative rushing attack was one of the Warriors’ strong points.
“Number 11, he’s their guy. He’s a running back type playing the quarterback position,” Lutz said.
Having speed and athleticism at the quarterback position to account for as a defense often opens up playbooks to more motion. There are more opportunities to be creative, especially with running plays
“There are two threats in option football. There’s the quarterback and there’s the pitch,” Lutz said.
Wayne State’s number 11, Jayden Waddell, was one of three quarterbacks used by the Warriors. He only attempted six passes but rushed fourteen times for 83 yards and a touchdown.
“It was the jet motion. They were really getting on the perimeter against us,” Lutz said.
The dynamic approach worked well, but The Rock was able to bottle it up enough to limit Wayne State to only two touchdowns.
“It was a tale of two halves. Offense came through in the second half, defense came through in the first half… In the second half the offense did whatever they wanted to,” Lutz said.
There is always work to do, but SRU coming out of week one with a win by two scores despite not playing to their potential shows how good the team can be. They remain ranked No. 15 nationally going into week two.
“Learn from your mistakes and move on. The best teams, where they get better, you wanna see the improvement from week one to week two,” Lutz said.