A drastic increase in strength of schedule for SRU football begins this week as The Rock is set to take on No. 14 Indiana University (Pa.) (4-1) this Saturday at Indiana.
The Rock is coming off three straight comfortable wins against sub-par teams, but that will change this week against a ranked IUP team who lost a heartbreaker last week against ranked California University (Pa.). IUP had the chance to score a go-ahead touchdown with five minutes remaining in the game, but redshirt senior quarterback Lenny Williams Jr. threw a goal-line pick-six that put the game out of reach for the Crimson Hawks.
“It would be no better feeling to have an opportunity to beat these guys on the road at their house and at homecoming,” SRU football head coach Shawn Lutz said. “I don’t think you can have a better feeling right there. We’re not going to be scared, we’re going to lay it on the line.”
SRU currently sits with a 4-1 overall record and a 2-0 conference record which puts them in a three-way tie for first place in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) West standings with Clarion University (4-1) and CalU (4-1).
Rock junior quarterback Roland Rivers will remain behind center this week, and will have senior running back Wes Hills in the backfield for Saturday’s game after returning from injury last week.
“We got some depth at the running back position,” Lutz said. “[Hills] is going to start the game and we’re planning on using him as much as needed. I don’t think we’re going to worry about his injury, we can’t worry about it, we have to win this game.”
Given Hills will need a break from the action, redshirt sophomore running back Braden Fochtman who replaced Hills during his absence, will step in. Fochtman can also expect to see some late down work as well to give Hills a break when needed.
Coach Lutz, a former tight end at West Virginia University, was pleased to see both his tight ends catch a touchdown last week in redshirt juniors Zach Cirillo and Aramis Alexander.
“They can catch a little bit, they can block, and it adds just a little more dimension just to neutralize the opponent in terms of just teeing off on the quarterback for pass protection as well, but I like it definitely,” Lutz said.
Lutz explained that IUP doesn’t do anything crazy on defense, as they play a lot of man coverage because they believe they can out-skill their opponents. Coach empathized their defensive ends are top of the line and can create pressure from both ends of the line.
The Rock defense has been playing exceptionally well in the latter parts of games this season. Rock opponents have only managed a combined total of 60 rushing yards through five games for an average of 12 yards during the third and fourth quarters this season.
“The difference in this game will be from my opinion who creates more turnovers,” Lutz said. “And number two most importantly we got to completely shut down their run game. I like our chances, I think our fronts playing well, linebackers are getting downhill, but this is our first test.”
This week will be The Rock’s first real test of the season, against a hungry Crimson Hawk team who is coming off a devastating loss last week. Last season IUP defeated the Green and White 34-17 at Indiana. The last time The Rock was able to come out victorious against IUP was in 2015 when SRU won a nail bitter 40-39. This week’s game is set for a 2:00 p.m. kickoff at George P. Miller Stadium and should expect a full capacity crowd for the Crimson Hawk’s homecoming.