Slippery Rock throttles No. 7 IUP, 42-16
Two years ago, Teddy Blakeman identified himself as an Indiana (Pa.) Crimson Hawk.
But Blakeman, a Penn Hills graduate, now rolls with the high-scoring “Rock boys.”
On Saturday afternoon, Blakeman, a redshirt junior running back, aided his current team, Slippery Rock (5-1, 2-1), in a blowout win over his former school. Blakeman scored twice and rushed for 55 yards on 11 carries in The Rock's 42-16 upset of defending PSAC champion IUP (5-1, 2-1), which was ranked No. 7 in Division II by the American Football Coaches Association in the latest poll.
Slippery Rock, fourth in Division II in both scoring (50.4 ppg) and total offense (565.4 ypg), headed to the locker room at halftime with 330 yards of offense and a 28-3 lead. Such statistics altered the perception of IUP's defense, which started the day with Division II-lows in points allowed (6.0) and yards allowed (213.4) per contest.
“I just thought all week that we'd come in here and be a better team,” said Blakeman, whose second-quarter touchdown runs of 2 and 3 yards extended Slippery Rock's lead to 28-0. “I knew all week we'd come in here and pound them like we do every other week. It doesn't make a difference whether it's a Gannon, a Mercyhurst — it's just another game, and we come in here and go hard for 60 minutes.”
Blakeman sat out of last year's game, which IUP won, 33-16. In his two years with the Crimson Hawks, he rushed for 762 yards and nine touchdowns.
He traded IUP's methodical power-run game for Slippery Rock's pass-heavy, no-huddle spread. Saturday left him with no regrets about that decision.
“It was real personal for me, but I tried to put that on the backburner,” Blakeman said. “I play with the Rock boys, and this win is for us.”
He added after a quick pause: “I'm glad I'm out of IUP.”
Blakeman and the rest of The Rock's playmakers encountered few setbacks as they accumulated 676 yards of offense, including 227 on the ground. The no-huddle offense, run masterfully by quarterback Nigel Barksdale, exhausted IUP's defenders early.
“I'm standing on the field and looking at their sideline, and you see like 75 percent of their guys are down on one knee, grabbing their shoulder pads,” said Barksdale, who completed 27 of 38 pass attempts for 425 yards and two touchdowns. “Then I look over to my sideline ... and we still got all our players into the game, watching us on their feet. It just showed that we're four quarters deep. We're ready.”
IUP coach Curt Cignetti sat down on a couch next to Barksdale for a postgame interview and immediately offered praise to the quarterback. He credited the rest of The Rock, too.
“I was very concerned about this game, because I didn't feel like we'd been challenged on defense, and I thought they had a great offense,” Cignetti said. “I thought they whipped us on both sides. And they whipped us up front. My biggest fear was they wouldn't be able to stop the run. But we also couldn't run the ball.”
Slippery Rock's defense almost matched the impressive performance of its offense by shutting down a rushing attack that ranked first among PSAC West teams in yards per game (203.8). The Crimson Hawks picked up just 49 yards on the ground in the first half and finished with 28 rushes for 59 yards.
The early deficit and stagnant run game put the onus of comeback on IUP redshirt senior Mike Box, who completed 18 of 41 for 278 yards in the loss. He found Terrill Barnes for a 23-yard touchdown that made the score 42-10 with 13:34 left in the fourth quarter.
“We knew that if we could get them down to passing the ball, that's a game-changer,” said senior linebacker Gary Allen, a North Allegheny alum who had seven tackles and a 13-yard fumble return. “And that gets us a W.”