The Slippery Rock University football team travels to Erie, Pa to take on Mercyhurst University (3-2) for a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) match-up with kick-off starting at noon on Saturday.
After their home overtime win last week against number five California University of Pa, The Rock moves up to number 12 this week in the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) coaches poll, as they look to go 6-0 on the season and 3-0 in PSAC play.
Last week was the second week in a row where The Rock had to score on their last possession late in the fourth quarter to come away with the wins. The Green and White currently sit in second place in the PSAC West, behind number four ranked Indiana University of Pa. (5-0), who SRU will play the following week at home.
“We’re a 5-0 football team, but we could easily be a 2-3 football team,” SRU football head coach Shawn Lutz said. “But the belief that this team has, the togetherness, and the family atmosphere is there.”
Last week for Mercyhurst, they defeated Gannon University (1-4) in a close 24-22 victory at home to claim the Niagara Cup. The Lakers defense kept them in the game, as they have all season because they have only surrendered an average of 20 points a game through five weeks, which ranks them third in the PSAC in that category. Mercyhurst have found themselves in some tight games this season, as they have yet to win or lose by more than one possession.
“I think we’re a battle tested team,” Lutz said. “Its not like their crumble under adversity or pressure situations, look how many they’ve been in and hopefully that’s going to help us moving forward.”
The Laker’s young offensive line, which has only one returning starter from last season, has given up the second most sacks in the PSAC this season with 14 total. This could bring trouble for Mercyhurst, as The Rock leads the PSAC in sacks for with 17 on the season, with redshirt senior defensive end Marcus Martin claiming 9.5 of those sacks.
On the offensive side of the ball, The Rock comes in ranked number two in the PSAC in average points per game as they average 44 points, with 220 points total on the season. For the Lakers, their offense ranks 13th in points coming into this week in the PSAC, as they have managed 97 total points this season, which averages 19.4 a game. Lutz mentioned how Mercyhurst’s offense likes to pound the ball on the ground and to chew up the clock with a typical power eye formation.
“One thing they do is they control the football by running the football,” Lutz said. “They try to limit possessions and it’s a totally different type of method and its been good for them.”
Rock redshirt senior quarterback Tanner Garry still leads the PSAC in passing touchdowns with 18, while also leading in passing yards with 1,693 through five games. Senior wide receiver Marcus Johnson leads the PSAC in receiving touchdowns with eight and receiving yards with 592, while fellow receiver, redshirt senior Milly Raye ranks not far behind with 522 yards and six scores. When it comes to rushing the ball, SRU has averaged 107 yards a game between redshirt senior Isiah Neely and redshirt freshman Chacar Berry.
When it comes to PSAC conference play, it doesn’t matter who you play. Lutz said if the team doesn’t play up to their ability, their definitely going to lose.
“When you face Mercyhurst, you can throw the records out; I truly mean that,” Lutz said. “Marty (Schaetzle) does a great job over there at getting his kids to believe number one, to be physical, and just to play hard.”
Rock injuries this week include Johnson who is tending to a swollen knee and is getting an MRI on Thursday, while senior offensive lineman Ian Park is dealing with a foot injury. Coach Lutz said both players will be game time decisions.
The last meeting between the two teams came last season when The Rock defeated the Lakers 37-25, which included 31 first half points by SRU. This week marks the 10th game all-time between the two programs after Mercyhurst joined the PSAC in 2008, as The Rock owns the series 5-4. The game will get underway at noon on Saturday located at Tullio Field in Erie.