It’s been a long time since The Rock and the Crimson Hawks of Indiana University of Pennsylvania have squared off. These schools arguably have the biggest rivalry in all of PSAC. When the teams face, you can’t help but get the sense that the team who walks away with the victory will represent the PSAC West in the championship game.
This year, The Rock will once again walk into the showdown much like they did in 2019; undefeated and at home on homecoming day. The hype surrounding the game when the two powerhouses meet is always big, but after a layoff for an entire year, this game is as big as it gets. The crowd is expected to the biggest of the regular season for Slippery Rock.
The Rock comes into the matchup at 6-0 (3-0). Over the last three games, they’ve put up 165 points and only allowed 30.
With key players like Chad Kuhn and Tim Vernick returning, the defense has only allowed 65 points over six games this season. Two seasons ago, in the run to the semifinal, they allowed nearly double that with 126 points allowed over the first six games.
Andrew Koester has stepped into the role of quarterback, and while there were some struggles early on, it seems he’s flipped a switch. He has 14 touchdown passes in the past three games to go along with 940-yards. He’s hit five different receivers for touchdowns in that time period (Max Meciejewski, Cinque Sweeting, Jermaine Wynn Jr., Henry Litwin and Kyle Sheets).
“Well, it’s exciting, [homecoming] is always fun and it’s even better that it’s against IUP, and it’s definitely a rivalry,” head coach Shawn Lutz said. “Whoever wins the game has the inside track to win the PSAC West championship and go to the next step.”
The next step of course is the PSAC championship. After a thrilling 45-42 win against IUP in 2019, The Rock had the advantage. That game was only conference loss that IUP had that season and was the difference in deciding who was in the title game. This year could be very similar. California University of Pennsylvania will also have a say this season though.
Before either team can think about that however, they have one of the biggest matchups of the year to play. IUP comes into the game receiving votes with a record of 4-1(3-0). They’ve struggled at times, but none more than their loss to Shepherd University in their second game of the season. They lost 37-21 and allowed 468 passing yards in the game.
So far passing defense for IUP has allowed 1,551 yards and 12 touchdowns through the air. Slippery Rock has the threat of Wynn Jr., Sweeting and Litwin on offense, which is a lot for any team. Add in Chris D’Or, Sheets and Meciejewski and it’s a tough situation. If you take away one of them, you still have to deal with the other five.
The crowd is going to play a large part in this game. The home-field advantage at Slippery Rock is like few others in Div. II., and because of the expected 10,000 person crowd, it’s going to be loud. That’s something both teams are going to have to prepare for.
Homecoming draws in thousands of people, and like any other year this one likely will too. There will be three other Slippery Rock sporting events going on, and much like 2019, the football game is going to be at the center of it. The game is going to have a 1 p.m. kickoff and will mark Slippery Rock’s first home afternoon game of the season.
This homecoming is different, it’s the last one for all of the seniors who made the decision to come back. This may also be the final time that they play IUP.
“I don’t want to cry right now, I just love those guys, and they made sacrifices to come back,” Lutz said. “This is the first time someone asked me that, it’s their last homecoming and we want to send them out on the right note.”