Rock survives Edinboro, 28-21
SLIPPERY ROCK — It was needed often.
And when it was needed, Slippery Rock University’s defense was there on a windy Saturday at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium, keying a 28-21 PSAC West football victory over Edinboro.
The Rock defense accounted for five takeaways, four quarterback sacks — and two key stops in the second half against the Fighting Scots. Edinboro was limited to 194 yards of total offense, only 65 in the second half.
The win gives The Rock (9-1, 6-1) at least a share of the PSAC West title for the fourth straight year and eighth time in the last 11 seasons. By way of tiebreaker, Indiana (Pa.) will host unbeaten Shepherd in the PSAC championship game this Saturday.
“Our defense came up big,” SRU coach Shawn Lutz said. “Our offense was struggling a little bit, so the defense carried the day.
“Give credit to Edinboro, though. They came in here and played very inspired football.”
Trailing 21-14 at halftime, the Scots (4-6, 2-5) started the second half with an onsides kick, Malcolm Johnson recovering the ball at SRU’s 48. Three penalties along with tackles by Jeff Marx. Kevin Hyde and Cody Ross on short running plays forced Edinboro to punt on 4th-and-41 from its own 21, however.
Edinboro did get even late in the third period when Toby Cline jumped a Noah Grover pass in the left flat and returned the interception 45 yards for the game-tying touchdown with 13 seconds left in the quarter.
The Scots maintained that momentum, forcing SRU into a three-and-out. Armani Bailey returned a Kyle Butts punt 22 yards to The Rock 35 with 14:20 left in the game.
“We were in position to take it,” Edinboro coach Jake Nulph said of the game. “We just couldn’t finish it off.”
Isaiah Manning and D.J. Adediwura sacked Edinboro quarterback Isaac Bernard on first down. On fourth-and-6 from the 31, the Scots went for the first down. Bailey caught a short pass, but was tackled by linebacker Brandon Bischof a yard short of the sticks.
“Our standard is to not give up points, no matter the situation,” Bischof said. “We failed to do that earlier in the game. We were determined not to let that happen again.”
Bischof was referring to Edinboro’s second touchdown, a 5-yard run by Zidane Thomas, set up by a 31-yard interception return by Avery Ennis that handed the Scots possession at the SRU 8-yard line. That score gave Edinboro a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter.
Bischof intercepted Bernard twice while Jacob Williams and Ali Abdul-Hakim had one each. Williams’ theft occurred at the Edinboro 26 less than two minutes into the game, setting up a 5-yard Chris Wells touchdown run for the first points of the day. Daniel Tooson recovered a fumble for The Rock.
SRU scored the game-winning points with 8:18 to play. Chris D’Or found the end zone on an 18-yard run after a reverse to Jawon Hall resulted in a 41-yard gain on the only other pay of the possession.
“(Colton) Rossi sealed that end and there was nothing but green in front of me,” D’Or said of the deciding touchdown. “All I had to do was run. Nobody touched me on that play.”
Lutz said he wanted to go to the reverse to Hall earlier “because they were pressing hard up the middle and I thought it’d be there.”
Edinboro did not cross its own 30 on any of its final four possessions.
“We played with the No. 10 team in the country today and at times, I thought we were better than them,” Nulph said. “This game reminds me of when we beat IUP late last year. The only difference was, we didn’t take advantage of our opportunities this time.”
Notes: D’Or rushed for 103 yards, his fifth 100-yard rushing game of the season. ... Kyle Sheets, SRU’s leading receiver, left the game in the third quarter with a shoulder injury. ... Saturday marked SRU’s 250th game played in its stadium. The Rock is 182-68 there overall, 56-7 since the facility was renamed Mihalik-Thompson Stadium in 2011. ... SRU is 28-2 in its last 30 PSAC West games. ... Bischof and Ross led The Rock with seven tackles each. Adediwura had two sacks and has 10.5 for the season. ... SRU is 60-28-7 all-time vs. Edinboro. ... The Rock closes the regular season with a 1 p.m. kickoff Saturday against Kutztown at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium.
Edinboro 7 7 7 0 — 21
Slippery Rock 7 14 0 7 — 28
SRU — Chris Wells 5 run (DJ Opsatrnik kick), 11:23
E — Thaddeus Standfield 24 pass from Isaac Bernard (Rich Pekmezian kick), 7:55
E — Zidane Thomas 5 run (Pekmerzian kick), 13:22
SRU — Chris D’Or 1 run (Opsatnik kick), 10:42
SRU — Kyle Sheets 7 pass from Noah Grover (Opsatnik kick), 2:57
E — Toby Kline 45 interception return (Pekmezian kick), :13
SRU — D’Or 18 run (Opsatnik kick), 8:19
Rushing: Edinboro, Zidane Thomas 11-33, Thaddeus Standfield 2-8, Aaron Hopkins 1-6, Karamago Sylla 5-4, Isaac Bernard 8-(-5). SRU, Chris D’Or 18-103, Chris Wells 11-50, Jawon Hall 1-41, Noah Grover 5-25, Isaiah Edwards 7-18, TEAM 3-(-13).
Passing: Edinboro, Isaac Bernard 22-30-148-4. SRU, Noah Grover 15-26-129-2.
Receiving: Edinboro, Thaddeus Standfield 4-40, Zidane Thomas 4-31, Aaron Hopkins 4-25, Nico Mrvos 3-16, Amani Bailey 3-14, Mike Watkins 2-12, Karamago Sylla 1-6, Brodie List 1-4. SRU, Kyle Sheets 6-58, Chris D’Or 3-19, Cohen Russell 2-22, Jawon Hall 2-6, Isaiah Edwards 1-14, Chris Wells 1-10.