District college football preview: Shippensburg, Slippery Rock lock horns
By Bill West
Published: Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Game of the week: Shippensburg at Slippery Rock
• When: 6 p.m. Saturday
• Records: Sh: 0-1; SR: 1-0.
A humbled Shippensburg squad will arrive at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium to square off with an increasingly assured Slippery Rock.
The Raiders, defending Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference East Division champs and preseason favorites, struggled to unleash their high-powered offense during a 33-0 loss to Shepherd (W.Va.). Despite the return of several key playmakers, Shippensburg, which averaged more than 500 yards of offense in 2012, managed just 217 in the loss. With the setback, Shippensburg went from a top-10 team in Division II to unranked.
The Rock, meanwhile, rank among the best offenses in Division II after a season-opening 51-36 win in which they gained 675 yards. Senior quarterback Nigel Barksdale earned Co-PSAC West offensive Player of the Week honors after throwing for 465 yards and a team-record six touchdowns.
Slippery Rock, which allowed 36 points in its win, still must respect versatile Raiders senior quarterback Zach Zulli, who earned the Harlon Hill trophy as the top Division II player a year ago. In addition to Zulli, the Raiders also retained All-PSAC East first-teamers Trevor Harman (Jr., WR), Jake Metz (Sr., DL) and Avery Coleman (Sr., DB).
Slippery Rock redshirt senior cornerback Anthony Saunders, a Valley graduate and second-team All-PSAC West selection, likely will be assigned to cover Harman. Saunders had a 28-yard pick-six last week.
Shippensburg beat Slippery Rock, 55-35, last season, and the Rock won the meeting prior to that, 38-34, in 2007.
Saturday's other games to watch
• Washington & Jefferson at St. John Fisher (N.Y.), 1 p.m.
W&J (1-0), the preseason pick to win the Presidents' Athletic Conference, will learn how it compares to national title contenders when it plays St. John Fisher, which is No. 19 in the D3football.com poll. Both teams blasted Ohio programs last week: The Cardinals beat Otterbein, 28-0; W&J topped Wooster, 58-21.
• Kutztown at California (Pa.), 3:30 p.m.
Though historically strong PSAC teams, Kutztown (0-1) and Cal (1-0) started this season without major fanfare. The Vulcans will try to claim their second win in 10 games against the Golden Bears, who lost last year's matchup, 48-45.
• West Chester at Gannon, noon
Following a lopsided Week 1 win over then-No. 12 New Haven, West Chester (1-0) made the AFCA Division II national rankings tied at No. 23. Gannon (1-0), fresh off a record-setting offensive outing in which it gained 639 yards during a 36-33 win over Lake Erie, gets its chance to shake up the polls.
• Grove City can open a season 2-0 for the first time since 2004 if it can beat Anderson (Ind.) on the road Saturday. The Wolverines, who topped Carnegie Mellon, 28-10, last week, will visit Indiana for the second time in history to play a team that has lost 17 straight.
• Due in part to upsets elsewhere in Division II, Indiana (Pa.) jumped up two spots to No. 8 in this week's American Football Coaches Association poll. IUP beat Southern Connecticut State, 30-20, in its season opener.
• Robert Morris junior Antwan Eddie earned Northeast Conference co-Rookie of the Week honors for his special teams play in last week's win over Morgan State. Eddie, a first-time punt returner, accumulated 96 yards on four runbacks. His yardage was second most in team history.
• Carnegie Mellon coach Rich Lackner and Allegheny coach Mark Matlak will add another chapter to their football rivalry Saturday. Lackner's Tartans went 3-1 against Matlak's Gators when the two were players in the late 1970s. In their time as coaches, however, Allegheny has won four of six.
• Duquesne quarterback Dillon Buechel, a Montour grad, needed just 5 more passing yards in last week's loss at Dayton to become the first Dukes freshman to reach 300 yards in back-to-back games. Buechel threw for 309 in his debut.
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