SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – The stats don’t always tell the whole story and that was the case Saturday when Kutztown University defeated No. 15 Slippery Rock University 28-16 in the NCAA Division II Quarterfinals at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium.
Kutztown picked up its 12th win in a row and second over SRU in a stretch of three weeks to improve to 12-2 and set a new program record for single-season wins. The Bears advance to the national semifinals for the first time in program history. Slippery Rock sees its season end with a 12-2 record with both losses coming to Kutztown, which has now defeated SRU four straight times in the series.
After trailing 21-14 at the break, The Rock dominated possession in the second half and moved the ball at-will against a stout Kutztown defense, outgaining the Bears by nearly 300 yards on the day to finish with a 502-203 advantage in total offense and a 27-11 edge in first downs. Kutztown didn’t run a single offensive play in Rock territory in the second half and only ran one total play beyond its own 40-yard line. Of the 68 total plays in the second half, all but 14 occurred in KU territory and those 14 were all run by Slippery Rock.
Those numbers added up to a huge advantage in possession time and total offense for SRU, but didn’t equate to any offensive points. The Rock offense went 0-for-5 in the red zone over the final 30 minutes, turned the ball over four times inside the KU 10-yard line and gave up a 100-yard pick six for the only Kutztown points of the half as the Golden Bears defense stood tall in the most important moments of the game.
Slippery Rock fumbled the ball away twice in KU territory, once in the first half that led to a KU scoring drive, and once in the second half at the KU two-yard line. But the decisive play in the game came with 11:01 to play in the fourth quarter when SRU marched back down inside the 10-yard line with a chance to tie the game. Brayden Long’s pass was undercut in the end zone and intercepted by Antaun Lloyd, who returned the ball untouched down the sideline for a 100-yard pick six. That made it 28-14 with 11:01 to play.
The Rock responded from that turnover by marching right back down the field, but took a delay of game penalty and turned the ball over on downs on the KU 32-yard line. The defense answered again with a three-and out by KU to give SRU the ball back with 5:05 to play. The Rock again went the length of the field and had first down at the Kutztown 17-yard line, but were stopped just inches short of a first down and turned the ball over on downs at the eight-yard line.
Again, the SRU defense forced a three-and-out by Kutztown and this time, the Golden Bears’ punt snap sailed over the head of the punter and out of the end zone for a safety to make it 28-16 with 1:58 to play.
A 48-yard kickoff return from Kylon Wilson set SRU up inside Kutztown territory inside the final two minutes and The Rock moved the ball down to the 20-yard line again, but took a 15-yard personal foul penalty and turned the ball over on downs with 1:10 to play, allowing Kutztown to run out the clock.
Slippery Rock finished the game with a 502-203 advantage in total offense after throwing for 322 yards and rushing for 180 yards. Kutztown was limited to 127 passing yards and 76 rushing yards after running for 275 yards against SRU in the PSAC title game Nov. 11. The Golden Bears won the turnover battle for the second time this season with SRU turning it over three times and KU turning it over just once.
Long completed 33-of-43 passes for 322 yards with no touchdowns and one interception, his fourth this season against KU after tossing just two picks in the other 12 games combined.
Kutztown blanketed Kyle Sheets with two safeties over the top to try to take him out of the game, which opened things up in the passing game for Cohen Russell to grab 11 passes for 83 yards and Kam Kruzelyak to catch seven passes for 90 yards. Chris D’Or caught seven passes for 58 yards and led SRU with 62 rushing yards and one TD on 12 carries to finish with 120 all-purpose yards. Khalid Dorsey ran for 53 yards and one TD on 11 carries and Isaiah Edwards ran for 40 yards on nine carries.
Wilson finished with a game-high 170 all-purpose yards with all of those coming on kick returns. That brought his total to 793 return yards on the year, establishing a new single-season record at The Rock.
Andrew Vince led the SRU defense with seven tackles. Ali Abdul-Hakim forced one fumble, which was recovered by Eddie Faulkner IV. Dominic Martinka, Cottrell Hatchett, Munchie Johnson and Kyle Kudla all finished with five stops.
Kutztown QB Judd Novak completed 11-of-16 passes for 127 yards with two TD and no interceptions. Mekhi Gibson caught three passes for 66 yards and one score and Darryl Davis-McNeil caught two passes for 16 yards and one score. Davis-McNeil was limited to 35 rushing yards on 10 carries after rushing for 146 yards and two TD in the PSAC title game.
Slippery Rock closes another successful season with the second-most wins in program history with a 12-2 overall record. The Rock reached the NCAA Playoffs for the fifth straight season, tied with Colorado Mines for the second longest active playoff streak in the country.
GAME NOTES: Slippery Rock’s 12-2 record ties for the second most wins in single-season history at SRU … SRU reached the NCAA Quarterfinals for the third time in the last five seasons … SRU was making its fifth straight appearance in the Division II Playoffs … QB Brayden Long finished the season with 3,808 passing yards and 35 TDs to rank No. 2 in SRU single-season history in both categories … Kyle Sheets finished his career with 2,440 receiving yards to rank No. 4 all-time at SRU … his 29 career TD catches rank No. 3 all-time at SRU … Kylon Wilson broke the SRU single-season record for kickoff return yards with 793 this season … his 793 kick return yards already rank ninth in career history at SRU … Shawn Lutz finishes his eighth year as SRU head coach with a 70-19 overall record while becoming the fastest coach in program history to 70 wins … Cohen Russell caught at least one pass in his last 27 straight games at SRU and finished the year with 1,114 yards to rank No. 8 in single-season history … he and Sheets were both over 1,100 yards this year to be the second SRU duo in program history to accomplish that in the same season.