District college football preview: No. 7 Indiana (Pa.) visits The Rock
Game of the week: Indiana (Pa.) at Slippery Rock
When: 2 p.m., Saturday
Records:I: 5-0, 2-0; SR: 4-1, 1-1
In the past 12 months, Indiana (Pa.), ranked No. 7 by the American Football Coaches Association, has showcased its ability to humble high-powered offenses. Most notably, in last year's Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference championship game, the Crimson Hawks shut down a Shippensburg attack that led Division II in most offensive categories.
Slippery Rock, which has scored at an unprecedented pace by the program's standards, will try to defy IUP's trend.
The Rock ranks fourth in Division II in total offense (565.4 ypg) and scoring (50.4 ppg). Senior quarterback Nigel Barksdale, a former junior college star from California who joined Slippery Rock last season, averages 353 passing yards per game and has 18 touchdown throws. His favorite target, Bethel Park grad and redshirt senior John Schademan, is fifth in Division II in receiving (131.6 ypg) and averages more than 21 yards per catch.
Redshirt senior linebacker Carl Fleming averages 10 tackles per game to lead a Crimson Hawks defense that tops Division II in yards allowed (213.4 ypg) and points allowed (6.0 ppg), and is tied for first in passes intercepted (12) and red-zone defense (33.3 percent).
Slippery Rock's defense will test De'Antwan Williams, IUP's leading rusher with 481 yards on 92 carries, as The Rock allows a PSAC West-low 93.4 yards per game on the ground — IUP gives up 95.2 rushing yards per contest.
Where the defenses differ is in the secondary: The Crimson Hawks hold opponents to 118.2 passing yards per game, while Slippery Rock surrenders 257.8. Marco Pecora, Terrell Holloway and Eric Williams each have three interceptions for IUP.
If field position becomes critical, both teams can trust in their special teams stars. IUP kicker Brett Ullman controls a kickoff squad that leads the PSAC in average net yardage (50.5) and Slippery Rock's James McCombie leads Division II in punting (46.7 ypp).
Indiana and Slippery Rock are the PSAC West's last two champions. The Crimson Hawks have won four of the teams' last seven meetings.
Saturday's other games to watch
• Thomas More at Washington & Jefferson, 7 p.m.
W&J (3-2, 2-1), the preseason favorite to win the Presidents' Athletic Conference, will try to shake off last week's upset loss to Bethany and beat the current frontrunner, Thomas More (4-0, 3-0), which has won its last five games against the Presidents.
• Clarion at California (Pa.), 3:30 p.m.
The Vulcans (3-2, 1-1) have won their last eight games against Clarion (3-2, 1-1). That streak might continue if the Golden Eagles don't fix a defense that allowed 45-plus points each of the last two weeks.
• Edinboro at Gannon, noon
The Erie-area rivalry has been one-sided for a decade, as Edinboro (3-2, 1-1) won its last seven games against Gannon (3-2, 2-2), dating back to 2001.
• Waynesburg at Grove City, 1:30 p.m.
Junior quarterback Carter Hill, who made his debut for Waynesburg against Grove City last season, averages 310.4 passing yards per game for the Yellow Jackets (4-1, 2-1), who have won their last two games against the Wolverines (3-2, 1-2) by 13 points.
Player to watch: Terrell Holloway
School: Indiana (Pa.)
Position: Defensive back
Of note: A Penn Hills graduate, he legally changed his last name from Washington to Holloway at the start of the 2012 season. But by either name, he has made his mark as a turnover-creating machine. This season, he is one of three defensive backs with an interception; all three of his came in a win over California (Pa.). A major contributor since 2010, his career includes seven interceptions, four blocked kicks, four fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles. He has 120 career tackles, including 16 1⁄2 for losses.
• Redshirt freshman quarterback Dillon Buechel continues to remind Duquesne that it's well off for a team that graduated its all-time rushing leader and a three-year starter under center last spring. Buechel, a Montour graduate, was named one of 20 players on the initial watch list for the Jerry Rice Award, which goes to the best first-year FCS player. The distinction comes as little surprise considering the start to Buechel's career: He has completed 81 of 129 pass attempts for 1,159 yards and six touchdowns. The winner of the award will be announced Dec. 16.
• Grove City has found some special freshmen this season. Punter Anthony Marnejon, kicker Ryan Stewart and kicker Cole McCandless are in their first years with the Wolverines, and each provides stability to their respective special teams. Marnejon earned the PAC Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance in Saturday's 24-21 win over Westminster, during which he punted seven times for 301 yards. For the season, he has averaged 36.4 yards per punt. Also in last week's win, Stewart, who started kicking as a senior at Indiana High School, made his second field goal of the season, a 27-yarder. He is 14 of 16 on extra-point attempts and 2 for 3 on field goals. And McCandless, a Slippery Rock alum, averages 49 yards per kickoff.
• Something must give when Thiel hosts St. Vincent at 3 p.m. Saturday. The Bearcats (0-4, 0-2) are owners of a 15-game losing streak. The Tomcats (0-5, 0-3) allow a PAC-high 37 points per game, and the Bearcats score a conference-low 8.5 points per game. Thiel won the matchup, 14-7, in 2012, a season in which it finished 3-7.