For the second straight week, No. 7 Slippery Rock found itself in a somewhat new and uncomfortable position, locked in a tight game at halftime.
And on a second consecutive Saturday marred by seasonal wind and rain, the Rock used a second-half surge to assert their status among the top NCAA Division II teams in the country.
Slippery Rock scored 28 unanswered second-half points, while its defense conceded just four third-quarter yards, en route to a critical 42-21 Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West Division victory over visiting California University of Pennsylvania Saturday at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium.
The Rock held a slim, 14-13, halftime lead over the Vulcans.
Just a week earlier, Slippery Rock needed to score 28 consecutive second-half points to avoid an upset bid and knock off Gannon, 49-24, in Erie.
“I don’t think our guys panic,” Rock coach Shawn Lutz said. “I think we can face any type of game. We play 60 minutes, and I don’t think a lot of teams can match our 60 minutes. Cal — they have a good football team, but they couldn’t match our 60 minutes.”
Slippery Rock (8-0, 5-0) outgained California (5-2, 4-1) in total offensive yards 532-226 and forced four turnovers with three sacks.
Linebacker Jalen Dangerfield returned an interception 23 yards for a touchdown, which gave the Rock their first two-score advantage, 28-13, midway through the third quarter.
“Great preparation, great game plan, great coaches, it’s nothing new to us,” Dangerfield said. “We came into the game expecting to shut down the passing game. We knew that’s what they wanted to do. That’s what we came in expecting to do; that’s the type of guys we have on our team.”
Defensive lineman Cottrell Hatchett led the Slippery Rock defense with 10 tackles and a sack, while defensive back Eddie Faulkner IV, a Shady Side Academy product, accumulated 5 tackles with 2 sacks and a forced fumble.
California quarterback Davis Black was the focal point of Slippery Rock’s harassment. The junior completed just 7-of-22 passes for 102 yards but accounted for all three of the Vulcans’ touchdowns on a pair of 1-yard plunges and a 4-yard scramble into the end zone.
Running back Eric McKan III did most of the damage for the California offense, gaining 99 yards on 18 carries.
“The turnovers, for us, you can’t do that against a good football team,” Vulcans coach Gary Dunn said. “We got kind of behind in the third quarter, and then we got out of character trying to make plays, and that’s when a good defense takes advantage of that.
“We’ll learn from this. We’ll grow from this. We’ll move forward.”
As dominant as Slippery Rock’s defense was, its offense was equal to the task.
Quarterback Brayden Long completed 21-of-35 passes for 299 yards and a first-quarter touchdown to receiver Logan Ramper, who finished with 56 yards on three catches.
Rock receiver Cohen Russell had a game-high six catches for 98 yards.
Running backs Khalid Dorsey and Chris D’Or were also strong in Slippery Rock’s running game.
Dorsey rushed eight times for a game-high 100 yards and a touchdown, while D’Or carried for 95 yards and a score. Isaiah Edwards added 39 yards and a touchdown.
“We knew they had a great rushing defense, and we did want to try to run the ball a little bit,” Long said. “We had some game-plan specific stuff for that. We knew they were giving us some stuff in the passing game we liked, and we tried to exploit it a little bit.”
Slippery Rock will now turn its attention to wrapping up a PSAC West Division championship. A victory over Clarion in a game that is set to kick off at 1 p.m. Saturday at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium would assure the Rock the division title.
“It’s really hard to be undefeated, but we have big goals,” Lutz said. “Last year we didn’t play in that game, that PSAC championship game, so winning the West would be our first goal, getting the PSAC championship game and winning that and really trying to get a first-round bye for the national playoffs.”
Seton Hill never trails in upset of IUP
Greensburg Salem graduate Hayden Teska threw for 259 yards, three touchdowns and an interception, while Connellsville native Ky’Ron Craggette rushed for 143 yards and two scores to lead Seton Hill to a 35-28 upset PSAC West victory over Indiana University of Pennsylvania at Offutt Field in Greensburg.
Craggette also caught four passes for 43 yards and a touchdown for Seton Hill (3-5, 2-3) against IUP (4-4, 2-3), which has now lost three of its past four.
Mark Bails Jr. caught four passes for a team-high 99 yards for the Griffins, who also saw Greensburg Salem product Cody Rubrecht and Ethan Fame catch scoring strikes.
IUP redshirt freshman quarterback Nico Marchitelli threw for 271 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He found Hilton Ridley for a game-high 11 catches and 131 yards, while Daniel Deabner caught four passes for 80 yards and two touchdowns.
Running back Dayjure Stewart rushed for 59 yards and a touchdown for the Crimson Hawks.
No. 22 Grove City routs Saint Vincent to improve to 8-0
The No. 22 Grove City defense forced seven sacks, two interceptions and held Saint Vincent to minus-13 rushing yards, as the Wolverines remained undefeated with a 49-0 Presidents’ Athletic Conference victory over the Bearcats at Robert E. Thorn Field in Grove City.
Penn-Trafford graduate Jack Jollie had a game-high seven tackles with a sack for Grove City (8-0, 8-0). Saint Vincent dropped to 2-5, 2-5.
A host of former WPIAL players also recorded sacks for the Wolverines, including Ryan Fleming (South Fayette), Keagan Fraser (Knoch), Jordan Karczewski (Central Valley) and Ben Bladel (Moon). Micah Walizer and Seth Rosenberry also sacked Bearcats quarterback Austin Slye for Grove City.
Penn-Trafford product Gabe Dunlap also returned a punt 40 yards for a Wolverines touchdown.
Quarterback Logan Pfeuffer, a Peters Township graduate, and running back Nico Flati, a West Allegheny product, paced the Grove City offense once again.
Pfeuffer passed for 150 yards and three touchdowns, while Flati rushed for 144 yards and a score.
Wolverines receiver Scott Fraser, a Knoch graduate, caught a team-high eight passes for 75 yards and two touchdowns, while Gavin Mauger, Shenango graduate Ryan Lenhart and Seth McGroerty also caught scoring strikes.
Carnegie Mellon runs to critical PAC win over W&J
Carnegie Mellon running back Willem Bouma rushed for 150 yards and a school-record five touchdowns on 18 carries to lead the Tartans to a crucial 35-14 PAC victory over Washington & Jefferson at Gesling Stadium in Oakland.
The Tartans (7-1) outgained the Presidents (5-2) on the ground, 265-88.
Running back Tre Vasiliadis also rushed for 101 yards for Carnegie Mellon.
Peters Township graduate Adrian Williams and Moon product Logan Young each intercepted W&J quarterback Jacob Pugh.
Pugh, a Thomas Jefferson graduate, passed for 315 yards and two touchdowns.
Receiver Jacob Macosko, a Peters Township product, caught five passes for 167 yards and two scores for the Presidents.
Westminster hangs on to knock off Allegheny
Moon graduate Ty McGowan threw for 163 yards and two touchdowns, while running back Ryan Gomes rushed for 106 yards and a score to lead Westminster to a 27-17 PAC win over Allegheny at Memorial Field inside Harold Burry Stadium in New Wilmington.
Gomes also caught two passes for 75 yards and a touchdown for the Titans (4-3, 4-3), while Jaylen Royal Eiland caught four passes for 69 yards and a score.
Allegheny quarterback Jack Johnson threw for 265 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions, and Ligonier Valley product Kyrie Miller rushed for 68 yards and a score.
Burrell graduate Ian Durci caught seven passes for a game-high 107 yards for the Gators (2-6, 2-6), and Austin Williams racked up 59 yards and a score through the air.
Norwin graduate Declan O’Brien, one of the nation’s top receivers in any division, caught three passes for 25 yards to notch the third 1,000-yard receiving campaign in Allegheny history.
O’Brien now has 77 receptions for 1,011 yards and six touchdowns. He trails Alex Victor’s 1,037 yards in 2017 for the Gators’ single-season record and now owns the top mark for most receptions in a single season in program history.
Waynesburg run over by Case Western
Sophomore receiver Isaac Trout, a Southmoreland graduate, caught a team-high six passes for 52 yards for Waynesburg, which fell to Case Western Reserve, 35-0, Saturday at DiSanto Field in Cleveland.
Quarterback Alex Fromberg threw for 231 yards and a touchdown for Case Western (6-1, 6-1), while Gage Duesler rushed for 130 yards and two scores against Waynesburg (1-6, 1-6).
Duquesne rallies past St. Francis (Pa.) to remain unbeaten in NEC
Duquesne outscored visiting St. Francis (Pa.) by 21 points in the second half to earn a 38-35 victory, its third in Northeast Conference play, at Arthur J. Rooney Field.
Quarterback Darius Perrantes passed for 227 yards, three touchdowns and an interception for the Dukes (4-3, 3-0) against the Red Flash (2-5, 2-2).
Joey Isabella racked up 116 receiving yards for Duquesne, while Darryl Powell Jr. and Keshawn Brown also caught touchdowns.
Running back JaMario Clements rushed for a team-high 88 yards for the Dukes, while Taj Butts added 65 yards and a touchdown.
Pitt blows late lead in loss at Wake Forest
Although Pitt’s offense showed signs of improvement, the Panthers defense allowed a game-winning, 15-yard touchdown catch by Wake Forest tight end Cameron Hite with seven seconds remaining in a 21-17 loss at Allegacy Federal Credit Union Stadium in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Quarterback Christian Veilleux threw for 302 yards and two touchdowns for Pitt (2-5, 1-3 Atlantic Coast Conference), while C’Bo Flemister rushed for 105 yards.
Receiver Bub Means led the Panthers with nine catches for 109 yards and a score. Third-string quarterback Santino Marucci started for Wake Forest (4-3, 1-3), which was missing its top two signal-callers due to injury.