Three things to watch in district college football
There’s perhaps no bigger surprise in district football this season than Slippery Rock.
And perhaps no player has opened more eyes than Rock junior quarterback Roland Rivers, who arrived on campus two days after training camp started and began the season as the third-stringer.
Since Rivers took over as starter, Slippery Rock is 5-0 and is averaging 47 points. More importantly, The Rock (6-1, 4-0) has catapulted into first place in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West.
Here are three things to watch this weekend, starting with The Rock’s matchup:
1. Alone at the top
Slippery Rock is the lone unbeaten left in the division heading into Saturday’s noon game at third-place Clarion (4-3, 2-2 PSAC West). Cal (Pa.) (4-3, 3-1) is in second place, with IUP and Gannon tied with Clarion at 2-2.
Rivers has emerged as a conference player of the year candidate despite playing in only five games. He ranks second in the PSAC in passing touchdowns (16) and third in passing yards (1,443). He also has six rushing touchdowns and has earned the past two PSAC West Offensive Player of the Week awards.
Slippery Rock features a balanced group of receivers, including Jermaine Wynn Jr. (Woodland Hills). He had six catches for 119 yards and three touchdowns in Saturday’s 59-28 victory over Edinboro.
Clarion is coming off a 24-23 setback at IUP in which the Golden Eagles led 20-0 after the first quarter. Clarion’s defense ranks second in the PSAC in total yards (315.1 allowed per game) and against the run (87.6).
2. Dukes look to stay on track
Duquesne (4-3, 1-1 Northeast Conference) can’t afford any slip-ups if it wants to stay in contention for the league title because the NEC features a six-game conference schedule.
Next up is a matchup with St. Francis (2-4, 0-1) at noon Saturday. The Dukes are coming off a 48-24 victory over Robert Morris, with A.J. Hines rushing for 182 yards and three touchdowns.
Duquesne wideout Nehari Crawford leads the league with 42 catches, 710 yards and seven touchdowns. If he’s not the best receiver in the conference, then it’s St. Francis’ Kamron Lewis, who was the NEC Offensive Player of the Year last season. Lewis has 37 catches for 530 yards and four touchdowns this fall.
3. Tough challenge awaits W&J
Three road games stand between No. 7 W&J (7-0, 6-0 Presidents’ Athletic Conference) and an unbeaten regular season, starting at 1 p.m. Saturday at Westminster (4-3, 4-2).
The Presidents needed a Jacob Adams-to-Andrew Wolf touchdown pass with 30 seconds left to beat Geneva, 50-43, last week. W&J’s offense continues to rank among the nation’s elite. Adams is second in Division III with 2,174 passing yards and 26 passing touchdowns, and Wolf is first with 1,032 receiving yards and 16 touchdown catches.
Westminster, though, features the conference’s top defense in yards allowed per game (285). Paul Gonzalez leads the team with 62 tackles, including 11 for a loss, as well as three sacks.
The Presidents lead the all-time series 36-3, but the Titans won in 2016 and took then-No. 15 W&J to overtime last year before losing 34-33.
Jeff Vella is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JeffVella_Trib.