Senior day brought a defensive showdown at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium when redshirt senior defensive end Marcus Martin broke the All-Divisions record for career sacks on Saturday afternoon when he collected 4.5 sacks and a touchdown in the team’s 24-9 victory over Clarion University (1-8).
“They were trying to double team me a lot of the time,” Martin said. “Once our defense started stopping the run it gave me more confidence and you know, we are just out there having fun.”
The win brings the famous “Milk Jug Trophy” back home to SRU while the Green and White’s record to improves to 7-2 on the season, which places them in third place in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) West behind first-place Indiana University (Pa) and second place California University (Pa).
“The defense won the game and I’m really proud of what they brought to the table with turnovers and pressure,” SRU football head coach Shawn Lutz said after the game. “To see these young guys have success, get confidence, it’s something we really needed.”
Kick-off commenced at 1:00 p.m. with a light to medium rain that lasted to the entirety of the game. The Rock got the ball first to start the game but was quickly forced to punt four plays later, while the next three drives ended in punts for both teams. The first points of the game came with 4:32 remaining in the first quarter when sophomore kicker Jake Chapla nailed a 43-yard field goal to put SRU up 3-0.
On the following drive The Rock forced the Golden Eagles to punt just three plays later to get the ball back, but then two plays later, redshirt senior running back Isiah Neely fumbled the ball and it was recovered by Clarion on the Green and White 20 yard line. However, just two plays later Martin got his second sack of the evening when he strip-sacked sophomore quarterback Jeff Clemens. Martin then was able to recover the ball himself and took it 84 yards the other way for a Rock touchdown to give them a 10-0 lead with 48 seconds left in the first.
“Early in the season I fell on a fumble that I should’ve returned for a touchdown,” Martin said. “So as soon as I had seen that ball I’m like I’m taking this to the crib.”
Six plays later on the following drive, freshman linebacker Trystan McDonald was able to pick off a Clemens pass, but The Rock wasn’t able to cash in as they were forced into a three and out. Then 11 plays later, Clarion got their first points of the game on a 53-yard drive that was capped off by a 25-yard field goal. The Rock responded six plays later when Neely found the end zone for his ninth touchdown of the season to make the score 17-3 SRU with 6:30 left in the first half.
The Rock defense kept the wheels turning as the forced another Clarion three and out, which then led to more Rock points as redshirt freshman running back Chacar Berry pushed it in from one yard out on fourth down for his fifth touchdown of the season to make it 24-3 The Rock heading into halftime.
“On the other end the offense didn’t play well today,” Lutz said. “No excuses about weather conditions this or that. Too many dropped balls by our receivers, Tanner Garry didn’t throw the ball well, the offensive line didn’t run block well; it’s gotta be better.”
Each possession in the third quarter resulted in a punt for both teams as the exchanged punts seven straight times. Early in the fourth, The Rock tried to extend their lead, but a Chapla 48 yard field goal fell well short as he kicked into the wind. Three plays later Clarion freshman running back Mylique McGriff found some space and took the ball 60 yards for a touchdown, but the extra point was no good making the score 24-9 The Rock with 9:12 left in the game.
With just under two minutes to play, Clarion had the ball and was trying to just close the gap on the score. When Clemens dropped back to pass on a first and ten from their own 36, Martin came flying into the backfield all alone and made another solo sack to claim the number one spot in the NCAA’s All-Divisions record book for career sacks. The Rock then held Clarion scoreless, as they went on to win the game 24-9. The Golden Eagles outgained The Rock in total yards 247-214 but still managed a win as they went 3-3 in the red-zone, while Clarion went 1-4.
“That will make this difference right there,” Clarion football head coach Chris Weibel said. “You gotta score when you’re on the two-yard line; you gotta score when you’re on the eleven-yard line. You gotta get points and we didn’t.”
In the passing game, SRU had the slight edge 134-91 but were outran by Clarion 156-80. Redshirt senior quarterback Tanner Garry had his least productive game of the season going 7 of 24 for just 57 yards while senior wide receiver Marcus Johnson passed for 47 yards on a reverse pass. Johnson didn’t record a single catch while fellow receiver, redshirt senior Milly Raye managed just two catches for nine yards in his return after missing last week with an ankle injury.
Up next for The Rock comes a match-up with winless Seton Hill University (0-9) in Greensburg, Pa on Saturday starting at noon.