After suffering a shocking home loss to Clarion University in its season opener, the Shippensburg University football team needed to bounce back with a big performance.
Unfortunately for the Red Raiders, that performance would have needed to come against Slippery Rock University — the 11th-ranked NCAA Division II team in the country. In Saturday’s Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) tilt, The Rock was on a different level.
Despite a strong start, Shippensburg (0-2, 0-2 PSAC) ultimately fell 54-19 at the hands of Slippery Rock (2-0, 1-0 PSAC) Saturday evening at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium.
SU’s first quarter was not indicative of the game it was about to play.
After forcing a punt on The Rock’s first possession, the Red Raiders pieced together a nine-play, 68-yard drive capped off by a short passing score from redshirt-sophomore Brycen Mussina to redshirt-junior Winston Eubanks.
A 29-yard field goal by sophomore David Shank to end the Red Raiders’ next possession extended the SU lead to 10-0 with under four minutes to play in the first quarter.
But, that would be the last Shippensburg score for quite some time.
Slippery Rock proceeded to rally off 48 straight points over the next two-and-a-half quarters.
The barrage of offensive fireworks has become the norm for the nationally-renowned Rock offense. SRU put up 62 points in its season-opening win over Wayne State as well.
Slippery Rock quarterback Roland Rivers III threw for four touchdowns, connecting with each of Henry Litwin and Jermaine Wynn twice. Backup quarterback Andrew Koester entered the game and launched a 42-yard score to Qaadir Dixon, too.
SRU got rushing touchdowns from DeSean Dinkins (six yards) and Nassir Weaver (75 yards), and tacked on two field goals from Jake Chapla.
Mussina, the reigning PSAC East Freshman of the Year, struggled to get much going through the air. He completed just 11 of his 26 attempts for 157 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
Once the game was well out of hand, redshirt-freshman quarterback Max DeVinney took over for Mussina. In his Shippensburg debut, DeVinney went 11-for-19 for 143 yards and a touchdown.
Eubanks was his usual productive self, pulling in six receptions for 111 yards and a touchdown. Graduate student Luke Durkin had a career-best day as a pass catcher, totaling four grabs for 63 yards.
The Red Raiders failed to get much going in the ground game, rushing 27 times for 45 yards — an average of just 1.7 yards per tote.
Conversely, Slippery Rock obliterated Shippensburg with its running game, racking up 238 yards on 37 carries (5.5 yards per carry).
The Red Raiders didn’t force any turnovers, but both redshirt-senior Eric Dzieniszewski and freshman Jacoby Sherard recorded one sack.
Third down conversion rate can often dictate the outcome of a football game, and that was the case on Saturday. The Red Raiders converted just three of their 15 third downs (20%). The Rock, on the other hand, converted eight of its 15 third downs (53%).
Overall, The Rock outgained the Red Raiders by almost 300 total yards (616-345).
Shippensburg hits the road one more time before returning to the friendly confines of Seth Grove Stadium.
The Red Raiders will travel to California University of Pennsylvania’s Adamson Stadium for a 1 p.m. matchup with the Vulcans on Saturday.