SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – Slippery Rock University looks to continue its winning ways and stay atop the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference-Western Division football standings Saturday when it travels to Erie to take on the Lakers of Mercyhurst University.
The winner of The Rock-Mercyhurst game will join the winner of Saturday’s game between sixth-ranked California (Pa.) and 14th-ranked Indiana (Pa.) in California as the only PSAC-West teams without a division loss two weeks into the conference season.
AN ‘ERIE’ FEELING: The Rock also seek to end a four-game losing skid in games played in the City of Erie. SRU is 0-2 in road games against Mercyhurst and Gannon since those schools joined the PSAC in 2008. The last Rock win in Erie was a 17-14 triumph over Gannon in Week 2 of the 2002 season.
LAST WEEK: The Rock and Mercyhurst both enter the game fresh off wins on the opening weekend of division competition. SRU scored touchdowns in five different fashions and accumulated its first 24 points on special teams or defensive plays en route to a 38-18 victory over visiting Gannon at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium.
Mercyhurst scored the first 13 points and then held off a Clarion comeback effort to record a 22-14 victory in Erie.
ROCK STARS: The Rock attack is led by redshirt sophomore quarterback Jared Buck (McDonald/West Allegheny HS), who has passed for 439 yards and six touchdowns in the first three games. His favorite receiver is redshirt junior wideout John Schademan (Pittsburgh/Bethel Park HS), who has caught 10 passes for 171 yards and three TDs. The Rock running game features redshirt senior Akeem Satterfield (Erie/Cathedral Prep HS), a 2010 All-PSAC-West performer who has rushed for 271 yards and two TDs this fall behind the line led by two Preseason All-America selections: senior center Austin Fedell (Wexford/North Allegheny HS) and senior guard Jesse Buck (McDonald/West Allegheny HS). Defensively, The Rock are led by Preseason All-America senior defensive end Jeff Thompson (Clairton/Clairton HS), who has 2.5 quarterback sacks, and junior linebackers Gary Allen (Pittsburgh/North Allegheny HS) and Quindell Dean (Uniontown/Uniontown HS), the team’s top two tacklers with 24 and 21 tackles, respectively. Junior defensive end Tony Papley (Slippery Rock/Slippery Rock HS) has recorded a team-best four tackles for loss and is tied with Thompson for the team lead in QB sacks. The Rock also has three national statistical leaders in redshirt sophomore free safety Isaiah Coleman (Lawrence, N.j./Lawrence HS), who earned PSAC-West Defensive Player of the Week honors last Sunday, is tied for the conference lead and ranks second nationally in interceptions with three; junior James McCombie (Nicktown/Bishop Carroll HS), who is the top punter in the conference and ranks third nationally with a 46.9 yards per punt average and true freshman return specialist Jaimire Dutrieuille (Pittsburgh/Woodland Hills HS), who leads the PSAC and ranks sixth nationally in kickoff returns (37.0 yards per return). Senior kicking specialist Kurt Brackman (West Milton, Ohio/Milton Union HS) carries a string of 41 consecutive successful extra-point attempts into the game.
SCOUTING THE LAKERS: Mercyhurst’s offensive attack is led by redshirt junior quarterback Anthony Vendemia, who has passed for 372 yards and five TDs this fall, and redshirt freshman running back Brandon Brown-Dykes, who has rushed for 252 yards and three TDs. Brown-Dykes’ efforts are complemented by junior runningmate Allen Jones II, who has rushed for 172 yards and two TDs. The Lakers’ top pass receiver is redshirt freshman wideout Devyn Woods with seven catches for 99 yards and two TDs. The anchor of the offensive line is Keith Poropat, who earned Preseason All-America honors. Mercyhurst has rushed for 618 yards in the last two games (wins over Millersville and Clarion) after having only 119 yards on the ground in the season-opening loss at Notre Dame (Ohio). Conversely, the Lakers have gained only 226 yards through the air the last two weeks after having 264 passing yards in the opening game. Redshirt sophomore defensive back Keith Polson is Mercyhurst’s top tackler with 21 takedowns this fall, while junior lineman Dustin Galich and sophomore linebacker Aaron McGee each had 18 tackles to their credit. Senior lineman Serge Augustin has recorded a team-high three tackles for loss and two quarterback sacks.
LAST YEAR’S GAME: A one-yard touchdown run by senior quarterback Cody Endres with 0:57 left to play broke a 21-21 tie and accounted for the winning points Oct. 29, 2011, in a 28-21 Rock victory at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium in Slippery Rock. The win over the defending conference champions assured the 18th-ranked Rock (8-1 overall, 6-0 PSAC-W) of their first PSAC-West title since 2000 and their first appearance in the PSAC Championship game since 1974.
THE COACHES: George Mihalik owns a 163-99-4 (.620) career win-loss record in 25 seasons as The Rock’s head coach. He is SRU’s all-time leader in career wins and ranks third among active PSAC coaches, fifth on the conference’s all-time wins chart and is tied for fifth among active NCAA D-II head coaches. Since being named as The Rock’s head coach in 1988, Mihalik has compiled a 2-2 record against Mercyhurst.
Marty Schaetzle has compiled a 47-64 (.423) career record in 11 seasons as Mercyhurst’s head coach. He owns a 2-2 record against The Rock.
THE SERIES: The Rock and Lakers have battled to a 2-2 stalemate in the all-time series with each team recording wins on their home field. SRU won 17-16 and 28-21 decisions in 2009 and 2011, respectively, while Mercyhurst claimed 34-10 and 21-13 victories in 2008 and 2010. The teams never met on the football field prior to Mercyhurst joining the PSAC for the start of the 2008 season.
UP NEXT: Following the game in Mercyhurst, The Rock turns its attention to next Saturday’s (Sept. 29) 6 p.m. home game against Kutztown University in a rematch of last fall’s PSAC Championship Game. The 29th class will be inducted into the SRU Athletic Hall of Fame during ceremonies held prior to the game and will be honored at halftime of the football game.