Fresh off of winning their second consecutive PSAC title last weekend, Slippery Rock University (10-1) will now host their first NCAA DII playoff game since 1999 when the Virginia Union Panthers (8-1) travel to Mihalik-Thompson Stadium for a noon kickoff.
SRU earned a No. 2 seed after dismantling West Chester 61-12 in the PSAC title game thanks to a balanced offensive attack that would amass nearly 600 yards in total yardage while the defense stifled the West Chester’s offense all day, limiting them to 245 total yard and just 52 on the ground.
Quarterback Dante Nania threw for 304 yards and five touchdowns, while running back Shamar Greene amassed 179 yards and added a touchdown against the overmatched Rams.
Nania and Greene key an offensive attack that brings balance and an array of weapons into Saturday’s first-round NCAA playoff contest against Virginia Union. Nania, a Youngstown State transfer, has settled in nicely in his first season at the Rock, throwing for 2,471 yards and 24 passing TD’s this season.
Greene is one of several running backs who make SRU one of the top rushing teams in Division II. Averaging 129.1 yards a game (9th in the NCAA) and with 10 touchdowns on the season, Greene is a top back in the country. Former Montour standout and Kent State transfer Julian Durden ranks fourth in the NCAA with 19 rushing TD’s and averages 77 yards a game on the ground.
SRU’s passing attack is balanced with four receivers with 29 catches or more. Jaimire Dutrieulle (36 catches, 511 yards, 6 TD’s) and Cornelius Raye (44-558-7) lead the group statistically.
With the No. 1 scoring offense in the nation that averages nearly 50 points a contest, the Rock will pose a major challenge for a Panthers defense that ranks in the top-20 in scoring defense (17.9 ppg). A key matchup will be the SRU running attack against the Virginia Union rush defense. SRU averages 283.5 yards a game while the Panthers give up the third least total in the NCAA at 73 yards per game.
Not to be outdone, the SRU defense boasts the top rushing defense in the country (62.9 allowed per game) and ranks first in turnovers gained with 35 this season. Their six defensive touchdowns are second best in the country, while the secondary led by University of Pittsburgh transfer Titus Howard has 19 interceptions as a unit this season.
Sophomore defensive end Marcus Martin leads the team with 10 sacks after his 16 helped earn him PSAC Freshman Defensive Player of the Year honors last season.
The winner of Saturday’s game will advance to the semi-final round of the super regional bracket to face the winner of the matchup between No. 3 seed Assumption (10-1) and No. 6 seed Bowie State (9-2) next Saturday at 1 p.m. at a site to be determined.
For a complete breakdown of the game and SRU’s season so far, check out THIS in-depth press release on the team’s website.
Photo credit: @PSACSports