After opening the season on a five-game winning streak, and then losing two in a row, the Slippery Rock University football team (6-2) defeated Indiana University of Pennsylvania last Saturday.
SRU won the game 31-21. The Rock bounced back from the two-game losing streak, and returned to their 5-0 form.
“If we have any hope for the postseason, we had to win,” SRU head coach George Mihalik said. “Indiana was in the same position; they had to win. It was a matter of which team was going to show up with the intent to get that victory.”
SRU shutout IUP in the first quarter, scoring one touchdown. SRU sophomore running back Shamar Greene opened up the scoring with a 65 yard rushing touchdown early in the first quarter. Greene rushed for 128 yards and one touchdown off of 21 carries.
Going into halftime, the Green and White led IUP 17-14, after being outscored in the second quarter. SRU scored 14 points to IUP’s seven points to close out the game.
The Rock went back to what has led them to every victory this season: their running game. Junior running back Julian Durden scored the Rock’s other rushing touchdown to go along with 80 yards off of 15 carries.
“We challenged our offensive line, they’re the guys that make it happen,” Mihalik said. “I told them that if we’re going to win this game, we have to be able to run the football. They were determined that they were going to come through.”
In his second start this season, SRU senior quarterback Jared Buck threw for 142 yards (10-14) and two touchdowns. He also rushed 12 times for 29 yards, including a 21 yard run. His two touchdowns passes were caught by Durden and senior wide receiver Melvin German.
“I thought he did a great job in managing our offense, and he made some very good checks at the line of scrimmage,” Mihalik said. “He didn’t turn the ball over in terms of interceptions and made some key touchdown throws when he had to. I thought that he’s played two good games in the past two weeks.”‘
Buck has replaced sophomore quarterback Zack Newsock as the Rock’s starting quarterback. His first start was in the “Big House Battle” two weeks ago. Mihalik said he was going to be the starter from the beginning of the year.
“During the preseason, Jared was having a great camp, and he was going to be our starter, but an injury took him out of it,” Mihalik said. “I just felt that the last two or three weeks, he’s been practicing very well. It seemed like he had that confidence level and command of the offense, and I just thought he gave us the best chance against Mercyhurst in Michigan to stretch the field.”
The Green and White’s defense was heavily involved in the game. It was another collective effort for the defense, which included 19 SRU players with at least one tackle. Sophomore defensive back Derrick Fulmore, senior defensive back Devin Ghafoor, senior linebacker Austin Miele, and sophomore defensive lineman Joe Phillips all had interceptions. Phillips also forced a fumble.
“The two previous weeks, we didn’t play too good defense, and people were outright questioning us and our defense,” Mihalik said. “The players took that to heart, and they definitely showed up, dominated the line of scrimmage, and created turnovers.”
The Rock’s next game is at home against Edinboro University (1-7) at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
Mihalik said Edinboro has played against teams very well, and they’ve been in every game.
“They have an outstanding quarterback. Cody Harris is going to extend the play and keep the play alive better than any quarterback we’ll play all year,” Mihalik said. “They have a very dangerous running back that can go the distance every time he touches it, and two good wide receivers. They have the ability to move the football.”