District College Preview: Points could pile up during PSAC title game
Neither first-year Bloomsburg coach Paul Darragh nor 26th-year Slippery Rock coach George Mihalik desires a high-scoring, pulse-elevating game when The Rock and the Huskies meet Saturday to determine the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference champion.
Both coaches admit a shootout seems inevitable, though.
Two elite Division II offenses with stylistically polar tendencies will shape the outcome of the title game, which begins at 12:30 p.m. at Bloomsburg. Slippery Rock (9-1), the PSAC West winner, enters as Division II's total offense leader and with the fourth-best passing attack. Bloomsburg (9-1), the East division winner, is fifth in Division II in rushing yards per game (313.4).
Slippery Rock, ranked No. 18 in this week's American Football Coaches Association poll, averages 46.2 points per game; No. 12 Bloomsburg averages 39.4.
“I guess from a fan's perspective, (a shootout) would be exciting,” Mihalik said. “From a coach's perspective, wow, it's a little nerve-racking.
“They have an outstanding offense, and their ability to run the football is just exceptional with (Franklyn) Quiteh and a great offensive line, so they're going to put points on the board. I don't think you ever stop them. It's a matter of can you control their offense.”
Quiteh, a senior running back, is the PSAC's all-time rushing leader with 7,084 yards. His per-game rushing average this season (175.6) is third-best in Division II.
While The Rock must worry about Quiteh, the Huskies' defense will focus on senior quarterback Nigel Barksdale and senior wide receiver John Schademan. Barksdale averages 332.6 passing yards per game. Schademan, a Bethel Park graduate, averages 124.2 yards.
“I don't doubt there will be some offensive fireworks on both sides of the ball,” Darragh said. “I think that's what's gotten both teams here. … We're going to have to do what we try to do every week, which is convert on third down on offense, get third-down stops on defense, run the football and keep them away from the big play.
“I don't want to get into a shootout with them, but if that needs to be the case, then hopefully we have enough bullets to win the game.”
Both teams excel at run defense. Bloomsburg allowed a PSAC-low 81.1 yards per game. Slippery Rock followed at 93.9.
Slippery Rock allowed 236.1 passing yards per game, while Bloomsburg surrendered a PSAC-worst 289.9.
Bloomsburg, which last was in the conference championship in 2010, won its only PSAC State Game in 1985 — the PSAC did not hold the State Game from 1988 to 2007. Slippery Rock, which made the State Game in 2011, claimed its fourth — and most recent — PSAC title in 1974.
The Huskies lead the series with Slippery Rock, 10-3, and have won the past nine meetings. When The Rock and Bloomsburg played a year ago, the Huskies won 49-41 after leading 42-13 at halftime.
“They're certainly a much better defensive front seven and overall defensively than what we faced last year,” Darragh said. “I think they're a more complete team than the team we saw last year, so that's going to make it that much more of a challenge to beat them.”