Slippery Rock holds off Bloomsburg for PSAC championship
For the second straight season, Slippery Rock needed a late-game stop to win a PSAC championship.
This time, The Rock got it.
With No. 5 Bloomsburg driving for a go-ahead score late in the fourth quarter, Slippery Rock’s defense stiffened, forcing four straight incompletions for a turnover on downs that helped The Rock (9-2) secure a 28-26 victory in the PSAC championship game Saturday at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium.
It was Slippery Rock’s first conference championship since 2000.
“I was dog tired. We all were dog tired,” said cornerback Admire Carter, who broke up a deep pass intended for D.J. McFadden on third down.
“We dug deep and found that little extra energy to get us through.”
In last season’s championship game, Slippery Rock took a 38-35 lead over Bloomsburg with 2:16 remaining before the Huskies scored the winning touchdown with 27 seconds left.
“We knew they weren’t going to quit, that it was going to be a four-quarter game,” said Slippery Rock linebacker Austin Miele, who had 12 tackles, including three for losses. “We just had to stay composed.”
Slippery Rock’s defense made the big plays late, and the offense put points on the board early. The Rock scored 28 points in the first half against Bloomsburg (10-1), which had allowed a conference-low 12.6 points per game coming into the game.
Jared Buck threw for 256 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score before leaving in the fourth quarter because of an injury, and Shamar Greene rushed for 116 yards. The Rock (9-2) overcame five turnovers, including two in the red zone.
“Nobody expected our offense to step up. They had the best defense or whatever,” Greene said. “We just came out ready to play.”
Using an up-tempo, no-huddle attack, Slippery Rock had 320 yards at halftime and 508 for the game. Buck threw touchdown passes to Leroy McClain and Melvin German in the first quarter. Teddy Blakeman and Buck rushed for touchdowns in the second quarter.
Bloomsburg scored on touchdown runs by Joe Parsnik and Tim Kelly and a 25-yard field goal by Braden Drexler to stay within 28-17 at halftime.
The Huskies had a chance for more points in the first half, but Trent Daniels dropped a potential touchdown pass in the second quarter.
“It was just one of those things,” Bloomsburg coach Paul Darragh said. “We had some chances to put some more points on the board, and we had some chances to keep them out of the end zone, and we didn’t. They’re a good football team. We just made one too many mistakes.”
Both defenses took over in the second half.
With Slippery Rock driving in the third quarter, Greene fumbled at the 12-yard line, and Bloomsburg recovered.
The Rock forced the Huskies to punt, but Bloomsburg forced another turnover on the next possession. Tomas Cabrera intercepted a pass and returned it 73 yards to the Slippery Rock 19, setting up Kelly’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Allison three plays later.
The Rock fumbled again on its next possession, and Drexler kicked a 44-yard field goal to cut Bloomsburg’s deficit to 28-26 with 8:52 remaining.
Drexler missed a 40-yard field goal wide left with 6:42 left.
Slippery Rock turned over the ball on downs, and Kelly completed a 29-yard pass to Lawrence Elliott at The Rock’s 36 on the first play of the ensuing drive.
But Kelly misfired on his next four attempts, with Carter and Isaiah Coleman breaking up passes on third and fourth down.
Greene’s 17-yard run on third-and-7 on the ensuing drive sealed the victory for Slippery Rock.
“We weren’t supposed to be here, and once we got in this game, we weren’t supposed to beat the No. 5 team in the country, which we did,” Slippery Rock coach George Mihalik said. “I’m real proud of our program to be (in this game) three of the last four years, and it’s nice to win one at home.”