It was a gathering, which had become somewhat typical — that is until this year.

The Slippery Rock football team has come together each of the past five seasons to watch the NCAA’s broadcast of the unveiling of the Division II playoff bracket.

This season’s get-together, held Nov. 12, took on a significantly different vibe after previously undefeated, fourth-ranked Slippery Rock was upset a day earlier in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference championship game by Kutztown.

The 31-7 loss knocked the Rock out of a likely top seed in Super Regional One, which brought with it a first-round bye.

“We go to a selection show, we’ve been doing it the last five years, and when our name gets called everybody is cheering and clapping,” said eighth-year Slippery Rock coach Shawn Lutz, whose team’s streak of five consecutive Division II NCAA playoff berths is the second longest in the nation. “This year, no one did that.”

Instead, the Rock has been making noise in the playoffs.

The Rock, seeded fourth in Super Regional One, dispatched of East Stroudsburg in the first round before knocking off the region’s top seed, Tiffin, in the second round Saturday by a combined score of 90-49.

“I think they were just shocked, pissed off and really want to show that we’re going to win this region,” Lutz said. “That’s the one thing, our goal is to compete for a national championship, and we’ve got to go through this region championship to do it.”

When No. 15 Slippery Rock (12-1) hosts the Super Regional One championship game at noon Saturday at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium, it will do so with a measure of added motivation.

Seeded third in the region, Kutztown (11-2) will travel to Slippery Rock for the all-PSAC title game showdown after beating Virginia Union and No. 2 seed Charleston (West Virginia) in the first and second rounds, respectively.

Slippery Rock wide receiver Kylon Wilson carries the football during an NCAA Division II second-round playoff game at Tiffin Saturday. (Courtesy of Slippery Rock athletics)

The chance for a rematch with the Golden Bears is just fine by Rock redshirt senior right guard Nick Stazer.

“We know we didn’t play well and we didn’t play to our standard at all,” the 6-foot-5, 315-pound Butler native said of Slippery Rock’s loss to Kutztown. “We let our coaches down. We let everybody down, our families. We really let ourselves down. It’s definitely a pride thing. We want to go back and show that they’re not better than us. We just didn’t have a good day. It’s definitely a big pride thing for us.”

And the game will come with some controversy.

Despite being the higher seed, Kutztown will make the nearly five-hour and more than 290-mile bus ride to Slippery Rock’s Butler County campus.

“Kutztown University regrets that it will not be hosting the NCAA Super Region One football final,” Kutztown’s Office of University Relations said in a statement. “Bids for each round of the NCAA playoffs must be completed by the end of October. Slippery Rock was awarded the regional final home game based on processing a bid for all three rounds of the regional. Not submitting the bid for the regional final was a misjudgment on our part.”

While his team would undoubtedly rather be staying home to host the regional final, Golden Bears coach Jim Clements said his players will be ready for the game regardless of what corner of the commonwealth it’s played in.

“We talk to our guys all the time about controlling the controllables,” he said. “This is totally out of our control. There’s nothing that we can do to right the ship here, so we’ve just got to march on and go play football. We’re just happy to be playing at this time of year.”

A win Saturday would give Kutztown its first Super Regional championship in school history. The Golden Bears hosted the final in 2021 but fell to Shepherd at their home Andre Reed Stadium.

“We lost on a Hail Mary with eight seconds to go to Tyson Bagent and Shepherd, a team that we had beat earlier in the year,” Clements said. “We know how hard it is to beat a good team once, let alone twice, so we’re just trying to go out there and play the best that we can and see where we’re at.

“It would mean a lot,” he added. “Winning the region for the first time in school history with eight scholarships is pretty damn good compared to everyone else we play.”

Slippery Rock, meanwhile, will be looking to win 13 games for the first time since 2019, when it set a school record for wins and advanced as far as the NCAA semifinals where it took a 58-15 loss to eventual national-title runner-up Minnesota State.

“We know if we play to our standard we know we can play with and beat anybody,” Stazer said.

That will mean reversing the way the PSAC championship went down.

Slippery Rock, which boasted the PSAC’s top offense, was mostly shut down against the conference’s top defense in Kutztown. The Rock managed just 182 yards through the air — with Harlon Hill Award finalist quarterback Brayden Long throwing three critical interceptions — while also managing just 47 yards on the ground against the Bears earlier this month.

Long has responded to throw for 425 yards and two touchdowns in the postseason. He now has completed 69% of his passes for 3,486 yards, 35 touchdowns and just five interceptions on the season.

Critically, Slippery Rock has also gotten its running game back to form in the postseason. The Rock rushed for 287 yards as a team against East Stroudsburg before gaining 219 yards on the ground against Tiffin.

Slippery Rock will look to lean on its three-headed backfield of Khalid Dorsey, Chris D’Or and Isaiah Edwards against Kutztown.

Dorsey has rushed for 931 yards and 11 touchdowns, while D’Or has racked up 688 yards and nine scores, and Edwards has added 506 yards and 13 scores this season.

Getting the running game going behind a line led by Stazer and left tackle Yuriy Hryckowian, an NCAA Division II Lineman of the Year Gene Upshaw Award finalist, will be critical for the Rock.

Slippery Rock wide receiver Kyle Sheets catches a pass during the Rock’s NCAA Division II second-round playoff victory against Tiffin. (Courtesy of Slippery Rock athletics)

“I think the way to do it is just starting faster than we did the first game,” Stazer said. “If we would’ve started faster the run was there, but once we were down a few scores you can’t run the ball against a team that can hold the ball for such a long period of time.”

Kutztown rushed for 275 yards in the PSAC championship game, led by Darryl Davis-McNeil, who gained 146 yards and two touchdowns. Golden Bears quarterback Judd Novak also threw for 137 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for 80 yards against the Rock.

Clements said his team will look to build upon that output and lean on its defense, which allowed a PSAC low 266.1 yards per game and 15.3 points per game during the regular season.

Linebacker Tyler Whary leads the Kutztown defense with 78 tackles and 4½ sacks this season, while senior Kam Wolfe has racked up 71 tackles and two sacks. Defensive lineman Nigel Wilson and Brayden Pohlman have also accrued a team-high five sacks each.

“They score a ton of points,” said Clements of Slippery Rock. “They’re a really explosive team. You go into this games and you just try to play sound football and not give up the huge play and just try to keep those guys in front of you because they have talent all over the field.”

John is a copy editor and page designer at the Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at

John Santa

John is a copy editor and page designer at the Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at