SELINSGROVE, Pa. — The Grove City College football team earned its first-ever NCAA Division III playoff victory Saturday afternoon by pulling out a last-second 21-20 win at No. 9 Susquehanna in the first round of the national tournament at Amos Alonzo Stagg.
Junior quarterback Logan Pfeuffer (Venetia, Pa./Peters Township) fired a 13-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Ryan Lenhart (New Castle, Pa./Shenango) on fourth-and-10 with seven seconds left in the game while sophomore kicker Caleb Kuechly (West Chester, Ohio/Mars Hill) added the extra point to give Grove City its only lead of the afternoon.
Lenhart’s catch in the back of the end zone capped an 11-play, 68-yard touchdown drive that used 1:42. That reception marked the second fourth-down conversion of the drive for the 16th-ranked Wolverines (11-0). Four plays before the touchdown, Pfeuffer completed an eight-yard pass to senior wide receiver Scott Fraser (Butler, Pa./Knoch) on fourth-and-4.
Earlier in the drive, Pfeuffer fired a 23-yard strike to senior wide receiver Ryan Heckathorn (Beaver Falls, Pa./Blackhawk) that moved the ball to the Susquehanna 27.
Pfeuffer completed 15 of 30 passes for 177 yards. Fraser had eight receptions for 86 yards while Heckathorn had three catches for 39 yards. Lenhart’s touchdown grab marked his only catch of the afternoon.
Senior running back Clayton Parrish (Mercer, Pa./West Middlesex) bulled through the Susquehanna defense for 122 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. Parrish became the first player to rush for 100 yards this year against Susquehanna, which allowed only one rushing touchdown during the regular season.
Junior running back Nico Flati (Aliquippa, Pa./West Allegheny) added 53 yards on 11 carries as Grove City finished with 167 total rushing yards. Overall, Grove CIty outgained Susquehanna, 344-193.
Susquehanna took a 7-0 lead with 1:46 left in the first quarter on a one-yard run by Tommy Grabowski. Grove City tied the game on the next drive as Parrish sprinted 28 yards to the end zone with 12:48 left in the first half.
Grove City drove to the Susquehanna 28 in the final two minutes of the first half. The drive stalled and Kuechly attempted a 45-yard field goal. Susquehanna deflected the kick and Keith Green III returned the ball 72 yards for a touchdown.
Susquehanna led 14-7 at halftime, then extended the lead to 17-7 with 12:28 remaining in the third quarter on Christian Colasurdo’s 41-yard field goal.
Parrish capped a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive with 5:36 left in the third quarter as he scored on a 15-yard run. The drive used 6 minutes, 45 seconds.
Susquehanna used over nine minutes of fourth quarter clock with a 16-play drive inside the Grove City 20. The Wolverines held, however, forcing Colasurdo to kick a 31-yard field goal.
Grove City held a 24-14 edge in first downs. The Wolverines held Susquehanna to 103 rushing yards. The River Hawks averaged 240 rushing yards per game during the regular season.
Sophomore linebacker Jack Jollie (Jeannette, Pa./Penn-Trafford) led Grove City with 12 tackles. Graduate student linebacker Ryan Fleming added eight stops.
The game featured no turnovers and seven total penalties. Grove City had four penalties for 23 yards while Susquehanna had three infractions for 24 yards.
Grove City will face Cortland State (N.Y.) next Saturday in the second round of the NCAA playoffs. Cortland State (10-1) pulled out a 23-17 win Saturday at Endicott (Mass.) in the first round of the national playoffs. It will be the first meeting between the programs.
DIVISION II FIRST ROUND
SLIPPERY ROCK 45, EAST STROUDSBURG 14
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – The 15th-ranked Slippery Rock University football team bounced back from its first loss of the season with a convincing 45-14 victory over East Stroudsburg University in the opening round of the NCAA Division II Playoffs Saturday from Mihalik-Thompson Stadium.
The Rock improve to 11-1 on the year and advance to the second round of the playoffs for the fourth time in the last five seasons. SRU will travel to No. 1 seed Tiffin next Saturday for a noon kickoff in the round of 16. East Stroudsburg finishes its season with a 9-3 overall record.
The Warriors scored first Saturday after Slippery Rock lost a fumble on its first offensive possession and ESU capitalized with a scoring drive that was capped by a one-yard TD run from Tyriq Lewis that made it 7-0 with 7:35 to play in the first.
SRU responded with 14 straight points on back-to-back drives with a rushing touchdown from Khalid Dorsey and a 46-yard fake punt touchdown run from Kylon Wilson that made it 14-7 in favor of SRU at the end of the first period.
The Rock added a third straight touchdown drive with a TD pass from Brayden Long to Kyle Sheets that made it 21-7 with 9:54 to play in the second quarter.
It looked like SRU had all the momentum as ESU had only managed four first downs to that point, but the Warriors got a jolt on special teams when Justin Cook took the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown that made it 21-14 with 9:42 to play in the half.
Those would be the final points of the game for ESU as The Rock defense slammed the door and pitched a shutout for the final 39:42 of the game.
Slippery Rock tacked on a 28-yard field goal from Mason Yohn that marked the first made field goal of the season for SRU and sent the game to halftime with The Rock leading 24-14.
Isaiah Edwards capped back-to-back scoring drives with a pair of rushing touchdowns as SRU outscored ESU 14-0 in the third quarter and Chris D’Or put a cap on the victory with a 41-yard rushing TD in the fourth quarter to account for the final points and wrap up a 24-0 run by SRU to end the game.
Slippery Rock was balanced on offense and finished with 521 total yards with 287 rushing yards and 234 passing yards. ESU entered the game ranked 10th in Division II in rushing defense, allowing just 83 yards per game and less than three yards per carry, but SRU ripped off 287 total rushing yards and averaged 5.9 yards per carry behind a dominant showing from the offensive line. The Rock finished with zero punts in the game. ESU was limited to 220 total yards of offense with 115 rushing yards and 105 passing yards.
Dorsey, Edwards and D’Or all found the end zone and finished with nearly even carries in the game. Dorsey went for 85 yards and one TD on 14 carries, D’Or ran for 90 yards and one TD on 15 carries and Edwards ran for 64 yards and two TD on 15 carries.
Long bounced back from a tough outing a week ago and was stellar in leading the offense, completing 21-of-30 passes for 234 yards with one TD and no interceptions.
Sheets caught his 16th TD pass of the year and finished with three catches for 48 yards while being double teamed most of the game. Cohen Russell extended his streak of games with a catch to 25 consecutive games and led SRU with five catches for 66 yards. D’Or added 30 receiving yards to finish with 120 all-purpose yards and Kam Kruzelyak caught three passes for 46 yards.
Kyle Kudla played his best game of the season to lead the Slippery Rock defense with 11 total tackles and 1.0 tackle for loss. His 11 stops bring his career total to 304 tackles after three seasons at Hillsdale and this season at SRU. Cottrell Hatchett was in the backfield most of the day and finished with seven tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and one sack. Mehki Twillie added six stops, Josh Stokes had five tackles and Eddie Faulkner IV and Andrew Vince each had a half-sack.
ESU got 51 rushing yards and one TD from Lewis and 201 all-purpose yards from Cook, which included the 95-yard kickoff return TD. Quarterback Charlie McKee was 8-of-15 for 86 yards before leaving the game in the second half. Aaron Tobias was 3-of-8 for 19 yards in relief.
Slippery Rock will now shift its focus to the second round of the NCAA Playoffs and will travel to No. 1 seed Tiffin next Saturday, Nov. 25, for a noon kickoff.