Slippery Rock football took down Millersville by three scores last Saturday, but there was no shortage of intrigue for much of the game.
Millersville took the opening kickoff the whole way back for six. 14 seconds in, The Rock was down a score.
The game had the makings of a shootout early. Slippery Rock fired back on a drive ending in a Brayden Long strike to Logan Ramper for another perfectly executed high-point touchdown.
Then things slowed down for The White and Green. Millersville would have both of the next two scores. It was 21-7 not long after the start of the second quarter. Things looked somewhat grim.
“I look around and nobody is nervous. They’re ready to go,” Slippery Rock Head Coach Shawn Lutz said.
It didn’t take long after for a flip to be switched on the Slippery Rock side. Linebacker Kyle Kudla noted there weren’t big schematic changes short of a few halftime adjustments, at least on defense, but from that point on it was a different game.
The Rock responded with a six-minute, 11-play drive.
Receiver Kyle Sheets found himself open deep a few times up to this point but he and Long had not connected for a big gain yet. This drive saw Long find Sheets and lead him toward the sideline on a fade route that would go for 43 yards.
Sheets and Ramper already made huge plays and would only continue to do so. Long noted their value postgame. When discussing seeing those two in single coverage, he said, “There’s no better feeling than that because I know they’re gonna go make a play for me.”
The Rock then forced a Millersville punt. 12 plays and a huge fourth down conversion on a pass from Long to Cohen Russel culminated in another receiving score for Sheets. As quickly as the game started to get out of hand, it was tied.
“The thing I like is we’re battle-tested. We’ve faced diversity. We were down two scores,” Lutz said.
Entering the second half coming off a stop, The Rock defense was ready to bear down.
“When you have guys on all three levels of the defense that can play complementary football with each other, great things happen,” linebacker Kyle Kudla said.
Kudla himself had a great game with eight total tackles, two tackles for loss, one pass breakup and one QB hit. He was a big part of The White and Green throwing a shutout in the second half.
Millersville’s offense may have been slowed, but The Rock would score three more touchdowns.
“In the second half we executed and did what we needed to do,” Lutz said. “I knew they’d come through. No one panicked.”
They took a 28-21 lead on a 32-yard pass to Sheets who continued his domination. To the surprise of absolutely no one in the stands, the next score of the game also came in the form of a pass from Long to Sheets. This time a 49-yarder. It would be Sheets’ third and final touchdown of the night.
“I don’t know why people single cover him,” Lutz said.
The electric receiver finished with an unreal stat line, accruing 210 yards and three touchdowns on 12 receptions. He now has 333 yards in essentially two games played.
Long added on with another passing score to tight end Kam Kruzelyak. Long’s final numbers were similarly impressive as he totaled almost 400 passing yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions.
“Brayden put the ball in great spots all night. Not just to me but to everyone on the field. It’s a testament to the work that he’s put in,” Sheets said.
In a game that once appeared like it could’ve been lopsided in favor of Millersville rather quickly, SRU won 42-21.
“We all made it a point starting on Tuesday; we were gonna try to win the game on Tuesday with how we practiced. We were gonna try to win the game on Wednesday with how we practiced. Thursday, et cetera,” Kudla said.
They open PSAC play with their first away game of the year at Seton Hill University on Saturday, September 23.
SRU leads the all-time series 11-2 over Seton Hill and are winners of six straight matchups.