Rock football slips by Mercyhurst with two fourth quarter touchdowns

Published by adviser, Author: Ryan Barlow - Sports Editor, Date: October 21, 2015
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The Slippery Rock (6-1 overall, 3-1 PSAC) offense stepped up in the fourth quarter to score two unanswered touchdowns, giving it a 35-24 victory over northern rival Mercyhurst (3-4 overall, 0-4 PSAC).
The Green and White led Mercyhurst after the first quarter 14-0, but the Lakers answered by tying the game with two touchdowns of its own before halftime. After the third quarter, Mercyhurst led 24-21, but Slippery Rock’s two fourth-quarter touchdowns were enough to secure its victory. The win moved Slippery Rock to No. 15 overall in the nation according to the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) poll.
“I thought we took control of the game early, but unfortunately we just relaxed,” Mihalik said. “We allowed a good team back into the game. At halftime, our players were making their feelings known. I think our whole locker room was determined that we were not going to have a repeat of the previous year.”
Mihalik was referring to last year’s Big House Battle at Michigan Stadium, where the Lakers walked out of Ann Arbor with a shocking 45-23 win over The Rock.
On Saturday, SRU’s offense put up 406 yards of total offense, compared to Mercyhurst’s 401 yards. The bulk of The Rock’s offense came with the running game, rushing for 252 yards on the ground as a team.
Redshirt-junior running back Shamar Greene led SRU’s rushing attack with 167 yards on 26 carries, including one touchdown. Senior Julian Durden scored two touchdowns with 65 yards, while redshirt-sophomore Isiah Neely added one touchdown with 10 yards.
Rock senior quarterback Dante Nania completed 16 passes for 167 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Redshirt-junior Leroy McClain caught Nania’s touchdown pass for a 38-yard score in the fourth quarter. McClain finished with four receptions and 66 receiving yards.
“The weather had just started getting nasty,” Mihalik said. “Credit to Dante, because he bought some time by avoiding the rush, he stepped up in the pocket and got a perfect pass to Leroy, who was focused enough to stay in bounds right on the end line.”
Other SRU receivers to contribute were junior Drew Scales and redshirt-junior Taishan Tucker. Scales caught six passes for 48 yards while Tucker pulled in two passes for 26 yards. Scales also returned four kickoffs for 117 yards.
The Rock’s defense, which is ranked fifth in the country in forced turnovers, wreaked even more havoc on the Laker offense as junior Derrick Fulmore, redshirt-junior Alfon Cook and senior Teven Williams each recorded one interception.
“While we may not be sacking the quarterback, we are still getting to him,” Mihalik said. “Any time you hit him, put him on the ground or rush him, it takes its toll. It may force some ill advised throws, and our front four put him that position.”
Along with his interception, Williams led his team with 11 tackles, one sack and two tackles for loss. Redshirt-sophomore Marcus Martin dominated the Mercyhurst offensive line, tackling 10 Lakers with two sacks, three tackles for loss and five quarterback hurries. Martin was recognized as the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conferenece’s (PSAC) defensive player of the week.
As a unit, The Rock’s defense kept the Lakers in negative yardage on the ground with -11 rushing yards.
SRU returns to Mihalik-Thompson Stadium this Saturday as it hosts rival Indiana University of Pennsylvania (5-1 overall, 4-0 PSAC).
“This is a great college football rivalry,” Mihalik said. “As a coach, I’m happy to have been a part of it for my entire career at Slippery Rock. The players know the intensity and it’s two proud football programs with great tradition.”
Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.

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