TIFFIN, Ohio (Slippery Rock Athletics) – The 15th-ranked Slippery Rock University football team went on the road and knocked off the No. 1 seed in Super Region One with a 45-35 victory at No. 9 Tiffin University in the second round of the NCAA Division II Playoffs Saturday at Frost-Kalnow Stadium.
The Rock, seeded fourth in the region, improve to 12-1 on the season and advance to the NCAA Quarterfinals where they will host third-seed Kutztown University next Saturday in the Super Region One final and a rematch of the PSAC Championship game. Even though Kutztown is the higher seed, Slippery Rock was the only team to submit a bid to host next week and was awarded the game based on the site bidding process. Game time is expected to be noon. Ticket and parking info will be announced Monday.
Tiffin finishes its season with an 11-1 record after going undefeated in the regular season on the way to winning the Great Midwest Athletic Conference title.
All of the scoring in Saturday’s game came in the final three quarters after the teams played to a 0-0 draw after the opening 15 minutes before exploding for four total touchdowns in a stretch of three minutes in the second quarter.
The Dragons opened the scoring with a 75-yard drive capped by a Carson Gresock run to take a 7-0 lead with 13:13 to play in the second. The Rock responded in just over one minute when Khalid Dorsey broke free for a 49-yard touchdown run to level the score at 7-7 with 12:05 to play in the half.
Tiffin retook the lead after returning the next kickoff 66 yards to set up a short field with Gresock rushing in from the one-yard line again to make It 14-7 with 10:40 left in the second.
From there, Slippery Rock would put together a 24-0 run to break the game open and would never look back. SRU evened the score at 14-14 on the very next play when Kylon Wilson took the kickoff and went 90 yards for a touchdown with 10:27 left in the half. It marked his second special teams touchdown in the playoffs are scoring on a fake punt in round one.
The Rock then took the lead for good with an eight-yard touchdown run from Chris D’Or that made it 21-14 with 1:35 to play in the second. After the defense forced a punt, the SRU offense took over at its own 21-yard line with 46 seconds left in the half and no timeouts. A 61-yard completion to Cohen Russell set up a short field goal from Mason Yohn to make it 24-14 with one second left in the half.
SRU attempted to squib the ball with one second left to end the half, but jumped offsides on the kick and gave Tiffin one untimed down to take a hail mary shot to the end zone. Slippery Rock star receiver Kyle Sheets rose up and intercepted the pass and returned it near midfield to end the half.
Sheets opened the third quarter by completing a 48-yard pass to Logan Ramper on a trick play and then caught his 17th touchdown pass of the season on the very next play to give Slippery Rock a 31-14 lead with 13:30 to play in the third. At that point in time, the 31 points scored by SRU marked a season-high allowed by Tiffin, which entered the game with the No. 5 ranked scoring defense in the country, allowing less than 14 points per game.
Tiffin stopped the 24-0 run with a touchdown with 12:33 to play in the fourth quarter to cut it back to a 10-point game, but SRU answered right away with a 48-yard TD run from D’Or to retake a 17-point lead. The teams traded scores again in the second half of the fourth with Isaiah Edwards putting the finishing touches on the victory with a seven-yard TD run with 1:31 to play.
The Dragons finished the game with a 489-458 edge in total offense after putting together a couple long scoring drives in the fourth quarter. Slippery Rock ran for 219 yards and threw for 239 yards in a balanced attack. Tiffin rushed for 156 yards, which was 109 yards shy of its season average, and threw for 333 yards.
Sheets finished a wild day with seven catches for 82 yards and one touchdown while also going 1-for-1 for 48 yards as a passer and intercepting a pass and returning it 34 yards on defense. All told, he finished with 114 all-purpose yards.
Russell caught four passes for 85 yards to bring him over 1,000 yards on the season, making him and Sheets the second duo of SRU receivers to top 1,000 receiving yards in the same season in program history. They join Henry Litwin and Jermaine Wynn Jr., who both topped 1,000 yards in 2019.
Brayden Long completed 16-of-23 passes for 191 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.
D’Or ran for 89 yards and two touchdowns on just six carries. Dorsey added 70 yards and one score on just 10 carries and Edwards rushed for 46 yards and one TD on 11 carries. Wilson finished with a team-high 139 all-purpose yards with all of those coming on kickoff returns.
Josh Stokes led the SRU defense with 10 total tackles and two pass breakups. Eddie Faulkner IV, Selvin Haynes, Kyle Kudla and Cottrell Hatchett each added nine tackles with Faulkner being credited with one forced fumble.
Gresock rushed for three touchdowns and 66 yards on 14 carries to lead Tiffin. Keegan Ray completed 26-of-39 passes for 333 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
Slippery Rock will now turn its focus to the regional final next Saturday as SRU makes its third trip to the regional final in the last five seasons and its first since 2019.
GAME NOTES: Slippery Rock reaches the NCAA Quarterfinals for the third time in the last five seasons … SRU improves to 12-1 on the year to mark the second 12-win season in program history (13 wins in 2019) … SRU improves to 2-0 all-time against Tiffin … SRU improves to 12-10 all-time in Division II Playoff Games … this was the second time since 2018 that SRU has gone on the road and beaten an undefeated higher ranked seed in the playoffs … Shawn Lutz won his 70th game to improve to 70-18 as head coach … he is the fastest coach in SRU history to 70 wins … Cohen Russell topped 1,000 receiving yards on the year and now has 1,031 yards to join Kyle Sheets and his 1,158 yards as the second duo in program history to go over 1,000 receiving yards in the same season … they join Henry Litwin and Jermaine Wynn Jr. from 2019 … Russell extended his streak of games with at least one catch to 26 straight games … Sheets caught his 17th TD pass of the season with all 17 coming in the last 12 games … he ranks No. 2 at SRU in single-season TD catches … Brayden Long moved up to No. 3 in single-season history at SRU with 3,544 yards of total offense on the year … Long’s 35 TD passes are No. 2 in single-season history and his 3,486 passing yards are No. 4.