The Rocket

Rock Football handles Gannon with ease, wins 48-7

The Green and White finishes off PSAC West play undefeated for the first time since 1999.

Sophomore+linebacker+Terrell+Gabriel+returns+a+57-yard+fumble+for+a+touchdown+late+in+the+fourth+quarter.+It+was+Gabriel%27s+second+fumble+recovery+this+season.+
Sophomore linebacker Terrell Gabriel returns a 57-yard fumble for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. It was Gabriel's second fumble recovery this season.

Sophomore linebacker Terrell Gabriel returns a 57-yard fumble for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. It was Gabriel's second fumble recovery this season.

Paris Malone

Paris Malone

Sophomore linebacker Terrell Gabriel returns a 57-yard fumble for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. It was Gabriel's second fumble recovery this season.

Oscar Matous, Assistant Sports Editor

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The Slippery Rock University football team finished off the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Western Division with a 48-7 win over Gannon University on Saturday.

The Rock (9-1 overall, 7-0 in the PSAC) completed a sweep of the PSAC West for the first time the 1999 season, according to Rock Athletics. Gannon falls to 2-8 (2-5) and sits in seventh place in the division.

Saturday’s game saw both teams battle not just each other, but Mother Nature as well, as a mixture of wind, rain, hail, and overall cold temperatures ran its course through Slippery Rock. Sophomore linebacker Trysten McDonald said the cold is every linebackers biggest dream.

“Even when it’s wet out because I know the people I am going up against are cold and don’t want to be hit,” McDonald said. “And it’s my job to hit you and to run through you. At the end of the day I am hoping for a nice and chilly day.”

The Rock jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, as junior kicker Jake Chapla continued his strong season and kicked his first field goal of the game.

Gannon retaliated and marched down the field on seven plays for 75 yards before quarterback Cody Callaway ran the ball nine yards to give his team their first and only lead of the game.

Rock head coach Shawn Lutz said he doesn’t think his team’s defense felt threatened once Gannon took the lead.

“Our guys don’t really ‘blink’ out there,” Lutz said. “They just continue to play. It stunk that they scored on that drive but our guys are pretty confident and they just continued to play football.”

The Rock’s offense dominated the Golden Knights the rest of the way. Senior running back Wes Hills would continue his strong first season with the Green and White by recording 207 rushing yards (averaging 12.2 yards/carry) and three touchdowns. Saturday’s game saw two standout moments for the 23-year-old senior. It was his third straight game with over 200 rushing yards as well as the first time in his football career that he recorded over 1,000 rushing yards in a single season.

“I got kinds of emotional [on the field] when I realized I got over 1,000 yards this season,” said Hills, modestly. I have never done that before and to do it today, with this team, is extra special.”

Junior quarterback Roland Rivers III passed for 181 yards on 16 completions and had two touchdowns in the process. His 21 passing touchdowns on the season tie him for second in the PSAC with Indiana’s (Pa.) Lenny Williams. Rivers was removed from the game prior to the start of the fourth quarter so he could be “preserved” for next week’s PSAC Championship. Sophomore Taylor King would take over the quarterback duties completing four passes for 66 yards.

Lutz said he was pleased with the relief effort he saw from King.

“I loved [Taylor] ‘getting in there,’ getting some work,” said Lutz, enthusiastically. “Now it’s time to lay all the marbles on the table and get ready for next week.”

Saturday’s game saw 10 different receivers catch at least one pass, furthering The Rock’s trend of “spreading the wealth.”

Redshirt sophomore Jermaine Wynn Jr. continued the offensive surge he has had during the latter part of the season by catching four passes for 62 yards and one touchdown. He is second on the team this season receiving yards with 494.

Redshirt junior Mike Merhaut caught three passes for 57 yards while redshirt freshman Kwis Montinard caught the first two passes of his collegiate career for 50 yards.

Following Gannon’s first-quarter touchdown, The Rock defense revamped and shut down the Golden Knights’ offense the rest of the way. Gannon’s running back, Marcus Jones, is arguably one of the best in the PSAC, Lutz said. The Rock was in complete control of Gannon’s running game, allowing Jones to only rush for 16 yards (1.1 yards/carry) on 15 attempts.

McDonald said he could tell during the latter part of the game that Jones had “pretty much given up” trying to get through The Rock’s defense.

“You could just see it in [Jones’] demeanor,” McDonald explained. “We shut him down early on in the first half that come the second half, he knew we were in control of his game.”

Junior Brad Zaffram and senior Tim Soave combined for three sacks for 21 yards. Redshirt freshman Arison Sanders recorded one sack for four yards and two tackles in the process.

Perhaps the biggest play for The Rock defense came with just over a minute in the game. Down 41-7, Gannon would fumble the ball on The Rock’s 43-yard line. SRU’s Terrell Gabriel would recover the ball and run it 57 yards for a touchdown to nail the coffin shut on Gannon.

The Rock will look to hoist their first PSAC championship since they won back-to-back championships in 2014 and 2015 as they take on no. 11 ranked West Chester University on Saturday. Kickoff is slated for 1:00 p.m. at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium in Slippery Rock.

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Rock Football handles Gannon with ease, wins 48-7