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Rock squanders chances in loss at IUP

Slippery Rock running back Chris D’Or (6) runs through Indiana (Pa.) defensive back Randy Washington during SRU’s 20-12 loss Saturday at Miller Stadium. Brendan Howe/Butler Eagle 10/01/2022
2 interceptions in end zone, 2 dropped picks by SRU help fuel Crimson Hawks’ 20-12 homecoming win

INDIANA — Too many mistakes and too much Duane Brown added up to one frustrating loss for Slippery Rock University on a soggy Saturday at Miller Stadium.

Brown caught 10 passes for 144 yards — including two touchdowns and two critical third down conversions in the second half — as Indiana (Pa.) held off SRU, 20-12, in a key early-season PSAC West football match-up.

“He’s the best football player in Division II,” IUP coach Paul Tortorella said of his senior wide receiver. “He showed that today. They (Slippery Rock) couldn’t have covered him any better.”

But The Rock (4-1, 1-1) could have put itself in better position before Brown’s second-half exploits.

On the second play of the game, Brandon Tuck-Hayden dropped a potential pick-six at IUP’s 25-yard line. Tuck-Hayden had nothing but turf between himself and the end zone.

SRU had first-and-goal from the IUP 6-yard line early in the first quarter, but Noah Grover’s pass into the end zone was deflected off the hand of receiver Kyle Sheets and intercepted by Randy Washington. The Crimson Hawks (4-0, 2-0) then drove 80 yards in 18 plays, eating 10:08 off the clock.

Mak Sexton’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Ridley gave the hosts a 7-0 lead. Earlier in that possession, Jalen Dangerfield had an interception in his hands and dropped it.

“They caught the ball and we didn’t,” SRU coach Shawn Lutz said of the defenses. “That made a big difference.”

After Ridley’s score, The Rock drove to IUP’s 10 before an offensive pass interference call set it back. On third-and-goal from the 12, Grover’s pass to the left corner of the end zone was picked off by Naszhir Taylor.

“I have to make smarter decisions with the ball,” Grover said. “I have to learn from this, grow from this. We fell behind and were forced to sling the rock a lot in the second half.”

Rain intensified during halftime and the second half was played in a downpour. That didn’t stop Brown from putting on a show.

Held to three catches and 41 yards in the first half, he pulled in seven balls for 103 yards in the second. That included catches of 9, 14 and 9 yards on successive plays on IUP’s first possession of the third quarter, the last catch being for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead.

“Mak has confidence in him and put the ball in there where Duane could make the catches,” Tortorella said. “He (Brown) kept making plays for us.”

Grover tossed touchdown passes of 6 and 28 yards to Jawon Hall — sandwiching Brown’s leaping 12-yard catch in the back of the end zone — but The Rock fell short. Hall’s 28-yard scoring catch occurred with 10:21 left to play, pulling SRU within eight points.

The Rock had one PAT attempt blocked and mishandled the snap on the other. IUP kicker Nick Andrasi sailed his third PAT kick wide.

“The weather affected the kicking games more than the offenses,” Tortorella said. “Both teams moved the ball well.”

Brown converted a pair of third downs — catching a 26-yard pass on 3rd-and-9, a 16-yard pass on 3rd-and-6 — as the Crimson Hawks chewed nearly seven minutes off the clock after The Rock’s second score. IUP punted with 3:41 left.

SRU drove to IUP’s 42 before turning the ball over on downs with 1:45 left. One final Rock possession failed to net any yardage.

IUP was 9-of-15 on third down and possessed the football for more than 35 minutes.

“They’re a good team and they do that to people,” Lutz said of the Crimson Hawks’ ball possession. “Duane Brown is just a great player. We had him defended well. We just couldn’t stop him.

“We have to get better. We can’t make the kind of mistakes we made today. We knew turnovers would be critical today and they were.”

SRU’s defense did not record a quarterback sack or a takeaway Saturday. Sexton completed 18 of 24 passes for 234 yards and three scores. Grover completed 19 of 41 passes for 233 yards and the two touchdowns, along with the interceptions.

“This loss won’t change who we are,” the quarterback said. “We’ll get ready for the next opponent the same way. We just need to get better. I need to get better.”

Notes: SRU was held to as few as 12 points for the first time since a 33-10 loss to West Chester in the 2018 PSAC title game. ... Chris D’Or rushed for 104 yards — his third 100-yard game in four weeks — but had just five carries in the second half. ... Tuck Hayden led The Rock with 10 tackles, including eight solo stops. ... SRU endured only its second PSAC West loss since 2017, both to IUP. ... The loss snapped a streak of 13 successive Rock PSAC West road wins. ... SRU hosts Mercyhurst at 6 p.m. Saturday for its Hall of Fame Game.

Slippery Rock 0 0 6 6 — 12

Indiana (Pa.) 0 7 7 6 — 20

Second Quarter

IUP — Hilton Ridley 6 pass from Mak Sexton (Nick Andrasi kick), 14:56

Third Quarter

IUP — Duane Brown 9 pass from Sexton (Andrasi kick), 7:13

SRU — Jawon Hall 6 pass from Noah Grover (kick blocked), 4:11

Fourth Quarter

IUP — Brown 12 pass from Sexton (kick failed), 12:34

SRU — Hall 28 pass from Grover (run failed),. 10:21

Individual Statistics

Rushing: SRU, Noah Grover 6-16, Chris D’Or 15-104, Isaiah Edwards 5-12. IUP, Dayjure Stewart 30-91, Adam Houser 4-16, JD Younger 4-18, Duane Brown 1-9.

Passing: SRU, Noah Grover 19-41-233-2. IUP, Mak Sexton 18-24-234-0.

Receiving: SRU, Chris D’Or 4-23, Kyle Sheets 5-54, Jacob Odom 1-14, Isaiah Edwards 1-4, NMax Maciejewski 2-18, Jawon Hall 3-80, Cohen Russell 2-21, Kenyon Johnson 1-19. IUP, Duane Brown 10-144, Quashah Carter 1-8, Hilton Ridley 4-47, Grant Smith 2-30, Dayjure Stewart 1-9.

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