The Rock football team (3-1) were unable to mount a comeback Saturday afternoon, losing its first game of the season to Seton Hill 41-38 as SRU kicker Mike Wainauskis missed a game-tying 22-yard field goal wide left.
Slippery Rock entered the game ranked no. 14 overall in Division II football, but the loss dropped The Rock out of the nation’s top 25.
“We had eight red zone opportunities,” Rock head coach George Mihalik said. “Three of those eight ended in touchdowns, and one for a field goal. Those other four we came up empty. You have to put the ball in the end zone when you have these types of opportunities, especially when that opportunity comes at the end of the game.”
Despite the rare miscues on the defensive end, The Rock still had a strong offensive performance.
Senior quarterback Dante Nania threw for 414 yards, completing 28-of-50 passes with two touchdowns and one interception.
Nania’s main target was redshirt-junior Taishan Tucker, who caught eight passes for 139 yards with one touchdown.
Senior Jaimire Dutrieuille also added another touchdown for The Rock, catching six passes for 32 yards.
Redshirt-sophomore Cornelius Raye hauled in four passes for 92 yards, while senior Marcus Carter caught five passes for 62 yards.
Senior Julien Durden made his second straight start in place of SRU’s injured star running Shamar Greene. Durden ran the ball 26 times, mounting 146 yards and three touchdowns.
Junior Derrick Fulmore, redshirt-senior Derek Morgan and junior Deonte Flemings each had one Slippery Rock’s three interceptions.
Sophomore Titus Howard, senior Teven Williams, and Fulmore each had seven tackles.
Williams was also credited for half a tackle for loss.
“Defensively, we just kept giving up the big play,” Mihalik said. “If we force them to just drive the football, they wouldn’t have scored. Our special teams, which had been a strength up to that point, were very disappointing. We had a punt blocked, a field goal blocked and our return game wasn’t there. All three phases just weren’t there, and we didn’t get the win when we had opportunities.”
SRU now shifts its focus to Gannon (3-1) who are coming off of a 47-31 loss to Clarion.
The result of this game will likely take control of the western division of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, and kick off is set for 12 p.m. at McConnell Family Stadium in Erie, Pennsylvania.
“We have no margin for error now. We have to win,” Mihalik said. “The players know what is on the line now. We have to study film and get in the weight room and do all we can to make sure we’re as prepared as possible.”