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District football Week 6 preview: Rivals collide with Cal (Pa.)-IUP, Washington & Jefferson-Carnegie Mellon

| Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017, 5:36 p.m.
IUP running back Samir Bullock rushed for six touchdowns in last week's win over Seton Hill. The total tied a school and PSAC record.
IUP Athletics
IUP running back Samir Bullock rushed for six touchdowns in last week's win over Seton Hill. The total tied a school and PSAC record.
Edinboro junior cornerback Zuril Hendrick leads all NCAA divisions with seven interceptions, two of which he has returned for touchdowns.
Edinboro Athletics
Edinboro junior cornerback Zuril Hendrick leads all NCAA divisions with seven interceptions, two of which he has returned for touchdowns.

Games of the week

Cal (Pa.) at IUP

2 p.m. Saturday

IUP senior running back Samir Bullock didn't mince words when asked about having this week's game with Cal (Pa.) circled on the calendar.

“We've been waiting for this one since the last game of (last) season,” said Bullock, who is coming off a 263-yard, six-touchdown rushing performance in a win over Seton Hill. “We're coming into this game with a heavy chip on our shoulder. These guys ended our (2016) season, so we're going to have a little bit of payback.”

No. 4 IUP (5-0, 2-0 PSAC) lost twice last season, both times to Cal (4-1, 1-1), with the second coming in the Division II playoffs.

No. 16 Cal enters the game on the heels of its first loss, 47-44 to Slippery Rock in overtime. IUP, after needing a late field goal to defeat Ashland in its opener, has dominated since, outscoring its opponents by an average of nearly 37 points a game.

Bullock expects the Vulcans to try to take out their frustration from last week's loss on the Crimson Hawks.

“I know it's going to be a good one,” he said.

The key, Bullock said, will be stopping Cal's rushing attack, led by Nick Grissom (296 yards, 5 TDs) and Jimmy Wheeler (167, 3). That will force the Vulcans to pass, which, Bullock said, plays right into the hands of the IUP defense (11 interceptions).

“(Cal) did a good job of playing a complete game (last year), and we didn't,” Bullock said. “We made a lot of mistakes, penalties, stuff like that. We're looking to improve on that.”

W&J at Carnegie Mellon

1 p.m. Saturday

As if a potential conference title wasn't enough of a storyline, this matchup's curiosity was heightened when Washington & Jefferson was forced to play an additional game this week.

An illness that spread through the Thiel campus postponed the Tomcats' game with the Presidents until Monday. No. 13 W&J (4-0, 2-0 PAC) won 55-3 but must play on four days' rest.

The abbreviated week is new to Presidents coach Mike Sirianni, so he contacted his brother, Nick, the receivers coach for the L.A. Chargers, to find out how NFL teams handle practicing on short rest.

“He told me to do more walk-throughs,” Sirianni said. “The thing about it is, we had a bye the week before (Thiel), so we hadn't played for 16 days. Now we have to play in five.”

The good news is the Presidents will be mostly healthy for Saturday. They will need to be against CMU.

The Tartans have built a 5-0, 3-0 record on the strength of a defense that allows a PAC-leading 14.4 points per game and their skill players: QB Alex Cline (911 yards, 14 TDs, 2 INTs), RB Sam Benger (424 yards, 5 TDs) and WR John Prather (31 receptions, 505 yards, 8 TDs).

“I don't think you can really stop them,” Sirianni said. “If you focus on the pass, they have the best running back in the country.”

The loser will have to play catch-up in the race for the PAC title. Case Western (3-0) and Westminster also are unbeaten (2-0) in league play. For their part, the Tartans aren't worrying about a conference title just yet.

“There is no denying there is a lot of history between the two schools and implications into the future this season,” Cline said, “but our minds are focused on the game this weekend and taking each game one by one.”

Player spotlight

Zuril Hendrick, Edinboro

Junior cornerback

While Slippery Rock defensive lineman Marcus Martin garners a lot of attention in the PSAC — and rightly so — a little further north, Hendrick is putting his name in the conversation for West Defensive Player of the Year honors.

The native of Rochester, N.Y., leads all NCAA divisions with seven interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns. His latest pick-six was Saturday against Clarion and covered 35 yards.

He also has 30 tackles, eight passes defensed, a pass breakup and a forced fumble.

By the numbers

22 — Passes attempted by Geneva this season

100 — Duquesne victories at Rooney Field, its home since 1993

Chuck Curti is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at ccurti@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CCurti_Trib.

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