Off to the races

Slippery Rock Football’s offense explodes in the first quarter on their way to a four-score victory

Published by Aidan Treu, Date: September 20, 2023
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Last week Slippery Rock head coach Shawn Lutz said the offense needed to play a cleaner game. The offense responded by scoring touchdowns on four straight drives to start the game. Everyone was firing on all cylinders.

“It’s what we talked about all week. Going out there, getting off to a fast start and getting into a rhythm early,” starting quarterback Brayden Long said.

The Rock was running a quick offense. In every phase of the game, the ball was moving quickly and effectively.

“I think the biggest thing is they got tired. The biggest thing with a tempo offense that you guys got to understand is when you get positive yards on first down and you can move that ball four, five or six yards, and we got nine, ten, eleven, twelve yards, it gasses that team,” Lutz said.

The game started off with a bang, too. SRU freshman receiver Kylon Wilson took the opening kickoff well past midfield, all the way to West Chester University’s 35. Good special teams play by SRU would be a theme of the night.

“How about the special teams? The kickoff return team? How about the kickoff team?” Lutz asked.

Rock special teams were a well-rounded unit. Not only was the return game working, but the kickoff team forced West Chester to start drives within their own 10-yard line on multiple instances.

After the huge opening kickoff return, Khalid Dorsey took over. The running back rushed for 28 yards in two plays then caught a pass from Brayden Long, turned upfield and got into the endzone.

“Dorsey is special. The thing that Dorsey has, he runs so hard and then he has another gear. When he gets in that gear, it’s like wow. And he’s showing some physicality,” Lutz said.

It took The White and Green 1:12 to score. The first drive was an accurate tone-setter.

West Chester punched back. Quarterback Cooper Jordan led a 70-yard drive in three plays to tie it up. It took 1:14.

“Anytime you beat a team like West Chester the way we did tonight, I’m gonna be happy. But I’m not content… We still gave up some plays that we can’t give up on defense,” Lutz said.

When The Rock got the ball back, it was Kyle Sheets’ turn. He had a big scare in week one when the senior wideout was hit hard midair as he attempted to reel in a deep ball shortly after the game started.

He was removed from the game to be examined for a concussion. There was a chance it would be an early season-altering injury for The Rock.

“We had talked about it all week and made progress all week. The trainers did a great job and really helped me out but this morning was really when we decided that I could go ahead and play,” Sheets said.

Sheets was back on the field for week two and he was going to make sure everyone knew it.

“It’s huge. Obviously, I love all my receivers, but Kyle is special,” Long said. “The chemistry we have on and off the field, it makes a huge difference,”

Slippery Rock’s next two drives, Sheets would amass 123 yards and two touchdowns. The numbers came on just two receptions, and two perfectly placed deep balls from quarterback Brayden Long. At this point, The Rock scored three touchdowns in less than nine minutes.

“We talked about them being in cover four all week, it was the shot plays we had drawn up. I just ran and Brayden put the ball out in front of me and it was a perfect ball both times,” Sheets said.

Cover four is a defensive coverage where typically four defenders play in deep zones far from the line of scrimmage and three defenders will play more underneath zones, closer to the line of scrimmage.

The last score of the four-touchdown streak belonged to running back Isaiah Edwards, setting the scene for what would be another dominant ground game.

“When he gets downhill, who wants to tackle that guy?” asked Lutz.

Edwards himself rushed for 67 yards on 11 carries and would later add another touchdown for his great stat line. Dorsey exploded on the stat sheet. He tallied 118 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries, good for an elite 8.4 yards per carry. On top of those two, Chris D’Or is also a feature back but he was unavailable for this game.

“I think our three running back group is really good,” Lutz said.

While no quarter for the rest of the game would be quite as ridiculous as the first for The Rock offense, they still scored one touchdown in each of the remaining quarters. Receiver Logan Ramper scored the touchdown not previously mentioned.

The defense was no slouch either. Defensive back Josh Stokes was at the center of the action for the second straight week. The junior had two interceptions in the game, bringing his season total to three through two games.

“How about what he has done consistently in the last two weeks? Now think about this, and I hate to say it, but he wasn’t a starter initially. He gets that opportunity week one and he was the player of the game in our opinion,” Lutz said.

The defensive showing wasn’t for lack of talent on West Chester’s side. Their quarterback, Cooper Jordan, did his best to make life difficult for The Rock defense.

“That quarterback, I don’t care what anybody says, he’s shifty. Try being out there and catching that kid,” Lutz said.

The White and Green’s three turnovers in this game were generated because they were able to pick up on some of his tendencies.

“Playing cover two, we knew he likes to get to the flats so we wanted to bait him to throw into the flat,” Stokes said. “When we had cover three the one play and he was staring directly down the seam I was like, ‘oh yeah, I can get this.’”

Cover two and cover three are other types of defensive coverage where two and three players play in deep zones respectively. Using these different defensive looks allowed Stokes to use his understanding of quarterback tendencies on pass plays against specific coverages.

“Its just situational awareness, you see the ball in the air and go get it,” Stokes said. “We were preaching, ‘go for the ball, go for the ball,’ all offseason. Last spring, that’s what we harped on.”

Coming off the 49-24 victory, Slippery Rock Football has Millersville on the schedule next week. The game will be The Rock’s third straight home matchup.

“Millersville is 2-0, they’ve got my attention,” Lutz said. “They beat Gannon at Gannon.”

Lutz is happy to be 2-0, but he will never be satisfied until he gets the best possible performance from every player on his team. The philosophy of constant improvement will be an active one all season and into the future.

“We’ve got to get better. That has to be the mindset, that we’ve got to continue to get better,” Lutz said.

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