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Slippery Rock, W&J learn NCAA playoff pairings

| Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013, 6:36 p.m.

Still bothered by its experience in 2011, Slippery Rock's football team worried that its loss in Saturday's Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference title game might've again cost the team a spot in the NCAA Division II playoffs.

The Rock's resume convinced the selection committee that Slippery Rock deserved one of the bracket's 24 playoff spots this time.

Slippery Rock secured a place in the D-II playoffs for the first time since 1999, as it earned the No. 5 seed in Super Region One. The Rock (9-2), which watched the unveiling of the bracket Sunday night, will travel to play No. 4 Winston-Salem State (9-1) on Saturday.

This past weekend, The Rock lost the PSAC title game, 42-38, to Bloomsburg. Because it entered that game as No. 5 in the Super Region One rankings and knew only the top six would advance to the playoffs, Slippery Rock feared it fell out of postseason positioning.

Two seasons ago, Slippery Rock lost the PSAC title game and missed the NCAA playoffs with an 8-3 record.

Winston-Salem State, a 2012 NCAA finalist, enters the playoffs under a dark cloud. Its quarterback, Rudy Johnson, suffered a beating at the hands of several Virginia State players in a bathroom Friday during a Central Intercollegiate Athletic Conference pre-title game banquet, according to police reports. CIAA officials canceled Saturday's championship game between Winston-Salem State and Virginia State, and they later ruled Virginia State ineligible for the Division II playoffs.

The first-round matchup between The Rock and the Rams will be a contrast in styles. Slippery Rock features an offense that is third in Division II in scoring (46.2 ppg) and first in total offense (573.4 ypg). Winston-Salem State is eighth in Division II in points allowed per game (15.4) and second in yards allowed per game (234.6).

In Division III, Washington & Jefferson, which again enters the NCAA playoffs as the Presidents' Athletic Conference title winner, will play defending national champ Mount Union (10-0) in the first round.

The Presidents (8-2), who lost to Johns Hopkins in the opening round a year ago, strive to win a playoff game for the first time since 2008.

Mount Union, ranked No. 1 by the American Football Coaches Association, made the NCAA finals each of the last eight seasons and won the title on four of those occasions.

Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at wwest@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.

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