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Big play spoils Rock rally

Slippery Rock linebacker Brandon Bischof (26) returns an interception late in the first half of SRU’s 23-21 loss to Kutztown at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium. Sebastian Foltz / Special to the Eagle11/12/22
SRU falls to Kutztown, still joins Div. II playoffs

SLIPPERY ROCK — One big play trumped two.

Jerome Kapp’s circus catch and subsequent run resulted in a 61-yard touchdown with 5:59 left Saturday, giving Kutztown a 23-21 college football win over Slippery Rock at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium.

The Rock (9-2) lost at home for only the sixth time in the past nine years. The defeat cost SRU a shot at a home game in the Division II playoffs this week. SRU was still selected for postseason play, however, and will travel to Massachusetts this Saturday to play Assumption.

“I’m upset right now. We didn’t play well in the first half. I thought we were ready to play today and we weren’t. That all starts with me,” SRU coach Shawn Lutz said.

Kutztown (8-3) scored on its first three possessions to take a 17-7 lead. The Rock played Saturday without leading receiver Kyle Sheets (shoulder), quarterback Noah Grover and leading rusher Chris D’Or (concussions). All missed the game due to injury. Tight end Max Maciejewski left the game in the third quarter with an injury as well.

The Golden Bears took their 17-7 lead into halftime and held it through three quarters before SRU completed a remarkable rally.

“They were missing some key players today,” Kutztown coach Jim Clements said. “But they came back on us. These are two of the most consistent programs in the PSAC over the past five years. It’s always a wild game when we play.”

Facing third-and-18 from his own 43 with just over nine minutes to play, SRU quarterback Brayden Long found Cohen Russell standing by himself deep down the left sideline. He connected with him for a 57-yard touchdown play to pull The Rock within three.

Moments later, Tyler Settle blocked a Kutztown punt and returned it 11 yards for a stunning touchdown and a 21-17 SRU lead with 7:19 remaining.

“We went after their first punt and didn’t come close,” Lutz said. “On the touchdown, no one blocked (Settle) and he was able to break in free to get it.”

“I thought that was gonna be a back-breaker,” Clements admitted.

Instead, the Golden Bears delivered that.

After its ensuing possession was extended by a roughing the punter penalty, Kutztown faced third-and-12 at its own 39. Quarterback Donny Blaine threw a pass to the 6-foot-3 Kapp deep down the right sideline. He leaped over two defenders to make the catch, then scampered the final 20 yards into the end zone for the go-ahead and eventual game-winning score.

“I thought we were in position to make a play on the ball there, but their guy made the play,” Lutz said.

“He’s just a different dude,” Clements said of Kapp, who had eight catches for 155 yards on the day.

The Rock had two more possessions. On first down from the SRU 31, Gavyn Barnes took a pitch-out and lofted a pass into double coverage that was intercepted by Cody Scherer. A Kutztown punt pinned SRU inside its own 5-yard line. The Rock went three-and-out, punted and never got the ball back.

Long completed 24 of 42 passes for 227 yards and was sacked five times.

“All that matters is we didn’t get it done,” Long said. “I knew Tuesday I’d be starting. We didn’t do enough to win.”

“Brayden didn’t do anything wrong. I thought he played well,” Lutz said. “We didn’t win enough one-on-one’s today — our line blocking their line, our receivers on their DB’s, their receivers on ours ... They won more of those than we did.”

Maciejewski had a career-high nine catches for 92 yards before leaving with an injury.

“It’s next-man up mentality here,” Long said. “The injuries are no excuse. The next guy plugs in and we have to keep going.”

Notes: Brandon Bischof had an interception for SRU late in the first half, his 41-yard return setting up a D.J. Opsatnik 40-yard field goal attempt that sailed wide right to end the half. ... Jalen Dangerfield led SRU with seven tackles. ... The Rock failed to register a quarterback sack. ... SRU entered the game ranked No. 9 in Division II. ... The team’s 14 seniors — Jacob Williams, Kevin Hyde, D.J. Adediwura, Grover, Bischof, Isaiah Manning, Kyle Butts, Brandon Tuck-Hayden, Opsatnik, Jeff Marx, Derian Green, Justin Aversa, Maciejewski and Dez Johnson — were honored before the game.

Kutztown 10 7 0 6 — 23

Slippery Rock 0 7 0 14 — 21

First Quarter

K — Tyreek Husser 17 pass dfrom Donny Blaine (Dawson Evitts kick), 9:36

K — Evitts 21 field goal, 1:26

Second Quarter

SRU — Tim Smith 4 run (DJ Opsatnik kick), 9:24

K — Darryl Davis-McNeil 2 run (Evitts kick), 5:53

Fourth Quarter

SRU — Cohen Russell 57 pass from Brayden Long (Opsatnik kick), 9:04

SRU — Tyler Settle 11 blocked punt return (Opsatnik kick), 7:19

K — Jerome Kapp 61 pass from Blaine (kick failed), 5:59

Individual Statistics

Rushing: Kutztown, Jordan Davis 19-50, Darryl Davis-McNeil 11-45, Kurtis Ravenel Jr. 1-11, Jaedyn Stewart 2-6, Donny Blaine 1-3, TEAM 3-(-6). SRU, Tim Smith 12-51, Jawon Hall 1-4, Brayden Long 14-(-26).

Passing: Kutztown, Donny Blaine 14-30-256-1. SRU, Brayden Long 24-42-227-0.

Receiving: Kutztown, Jerome Kapp 8-155, Alex MacKenzie 2-33, Jake Novak 2-18, Jaden Helton 1-33, Tyreek Husser 1-17. SRU, Max Maciejewski 9-92, Cohen Russell 6-74, Gavyn Barnes 4-37, Tim Smith 3-18, Jawon Hall 2-6.

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