Cal U, Slippery Rock brace for showdown
For a team picked to finish fourth in the PSAC West in the preseason, California University's football team has done pretty well so far.
So well that if the Vulcans can win Saturday's game against Slippery Rock, Cal U will have sole possession of the lead in the West and will clinch no worse than a share of the division title.
Cal (6-2, 4-1) travels to Slippery Rock (7-1, 4-1) in a battle of West co-leaders riding a three-game winning streak. Kickoff is at 1 p.m.
The Rockets have won their last five games after suffering their lone loss of the season to Gannon, 38-27, Sept. 21.
Slippery Rock has one of the highest scoring teams in Division II at 46.5 points game while Cal U is one of the defensive leaders in D-II, allowing just 14.4 points per game.
The Rockets have a bevy of offensive weapons, including quarterback Nigel Barksdale, who has passed for 2,790 yards (173 of 286) with 23 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Barksdale leads the PSAC, averaging 348.8 yards passing per game.
His favorite receivers are John Schaderman, who has rolled up 1,012 yards on his 46 receptions (22.0 avg.) and scored 11 TDs, and Ken Amos with 43 receptions for 595 yards and three TDs.
Shamar Greene leads The Rock's ground attack with 660 yards on 111 carries and three TDs, while running mate Teddy Blakeman has 407 yards, but has a team-leading 12 TDs.
Another running back who will see plenty of action is Brett Crenshaw.
Crenshaw, a Monessen graduate has rushed for 230 yards on 49 carries (4.5 avg.) and has scored five TDs. The redshirt sophomore's biggest game of the season came in the loss to Gannon when he rushed for 61 yards and scored a touchdown.
In two seasons, he has scored 12 TDs and rushed for more than 440 yards.
Slippery Rock's offense will pose a stern test to Cal U's defense, which has flourished under first-year defensive coordinator Mike Lopez. The Vulcans are ranked in the top 10 in D-II in both scoring and yards per game (298.0).
The Vulcans will lean heavily on players such as safety Dewey McDonald, who leads the team with 68 tackles, and defensive end Noah Taylor, who had a career-high nine tackles in last week's impressive 35-7 win over Gannon. Linebacker C.J. Townes, the team's third-leading tackler, had eight tackles and an interception last week.
Meanwhile, the Vulcans' offense has continued to churn out wins under quarterback James Harris, who has thrown for 1,035 yards and eight TDs.
Last week, Cal's running attack also shown life as the Vulcans rushed for a season-high 252 yards as Jeff Knox rushed for 102 yards and scored two TDs.
Nick Grissom had a season-high 81 yards rushing and scored once.
CAL CLIPS: The Vulcans hope to win the PSAC West after last season ended a streak of seven straight West crowns ... Slippery Rock is ranked 20th in the D2Football.com poll and 24th in the AFCA poll ... The Vulcans are most dangerous before halftime and before the end of the game as they have outscored teams 72-31 in the second quarter and 81-38 in the fourth quarter this season ... Ringgold grad Derrick Fiore has 288 yards rushing and one TD for Cal. Belle Vernon Area grad Spencer Lynn has 17 tackles.
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.