For the seventh consecutive season, the Rock football team won its season opener 39-13 at New Haven Saturday, outscoring the Chargers 25-3 in the second half alone.
“After winning the first game, you know you can win now,” Rock head coach George Mihalik said. “The team knows they can win and it really jumpstarts the season.”
After entering halftime with a slim 14-10 lead, SRU scored 10 quick points to start the third quarter. The team slammed the door on New Haven in the fourth quarter, scoring two touchdowns and causing a Chargers safety.
SRU was led by senior quarterback transfer Dante Nania, who played stronger as the game progressed. Nania finished the game completing 32-of-54 passes for 269 yards and three touchdowns. Nania also threw two interceptions on deep pass attempts. Mihalik was very pleased with his new quarterback’s first game with SRU.
“We had three dropped balls that would have gone for big plays or would have kept the drive alive, and that’s why it looks like we may have started slow,” Mihalik said. “We just didn’t make plays early on. The ball was there and we could’ve made catches and it just didn’t happen. Dante did well and as the game went on the whole team played a lot better.”
Redshirt-junior running back Shamar Greene rushed for 116 yards on 22 carries with one touchdown, while senior Julien Durden ran for 21 yards with one touchdown on six carries. Nania also scrambled for 37 yards.
“All in all, I think that the running game, passing game, and pass protection had a good first start,” Mihalik said. “We still have a lot of work to do yet, but it was a good first game.”
Two different Rock receivers caught touchdown passes from Nania during the game. Redshirt-junior Taishan Tucker caught five passes for 31 yards and two touchdowns, and redshirt-sophomore Cornelius Raye caught four passes for 38 yards and one touchdown.
Other Rock receivers who made an impact included redshirt-junior Leroy McClain, senior Marcus Carter, junior Drew Scales, and senior Jaimire Dutrieuille. McClain pulled in six passes for 43 yards, Carter five catches for 48 yards, Scales four catches for 69 yards, and Dutrieuille five catches for 26 yards.
Senior Youngstown State transfer Teven Williams led the Rock’s defense with 12 tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss. Senior Avery Anderson also made an impact for Slippery Rock defensively, tackling 10 Chargers with half of a tackle for loss.
“They couldn’t run the ball on us,” Mihalik said. “We had good run defense, and our pass defense tightened up. A couple of times they went for it on fourth down and we stopped them so we I was pretty pleased with the defense.”
Redshirt-senior kicker Mike Wainauskis connected for a 23-yard field goal in the third quarter, but later missed a field goal attempt from 36 yards. Wainauskis also missed one extra point attempt.
SRU now looks forward to its first home game of the season this Saturday against East Stroudsburg (0-1). The teams will play under the light’s at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium with kickoff beginning at 7 p.m.