Following a 9-2 regular season, Slippery Rock will make its fourth consecutive playoff appearance when it travels north to take on No. 3 seed Assumption (Mass.).
With another opportunity to compete in the Division II playoffs, Slippery Rock is not taking it for granted.
“Our goal in this program is to always compete for a national championship and it’s an honor to get into the dance,” head coach Shawn Lutz said. “To represent our conference and to get there four straight years is something we take pride in.”
Slippery Rock will once again look to make a deep run in the bracket as The Rock has advanced to the quarterfinals three times since 2015 and made an appearance in the national semifinals in 2019.
Once the calendar shifts towards the playoff, Lutz emphasizes the importance of every little detail in order to climb the bracket.
“These guys have been in these situations and every little thing when you get in the playoffs matter. We have to do the little things really well and be disciplined.”
As playoff football is ready to begin, Slippery Rock has dialed in on what 8-2 Assumption has to offer.
“Assumption has a respectable defense and there’s a lot of things they throw at you,” quarterback Noah Grover said.
The Greyhounds boast one of Division II’s best defenses. Assumption holds teams to 14.4 points per game while ranking fourth in overall yardage, limiting offenses to 233 yards per game.
On the offense, quarterback Jake Cady is a dual-threat quarterback that has thrown for 1,520 yards and 11 touchdowns through the air, but also leads the Greyhounds in rushing as well.
“It starts with their quarterback, he’s a scrambler,” Lutz said “He can extend plays and make things happen with his feet.”
It will be a tall task as Slippery Rock’s offense will go head-to-head with one of the nation’s best defenses.
This season, Slippery Rock has been led offensively by the redshirt senior Grover at quarterback. With 2,617 passing yards and 24 touchdowns, Grover has been one of the top quarterbacks in the conference. For Grover, wide receiver Kyle Sheets has been his top target all seasons, hauling in eight touchdowns and 828 receiving yards.
On the ground, Chris D’Or has led the charge with 747 yards and seven touchdowns as Slippery Rock has found a solid balance between the pass and run.
With the offense performing at a high level, it has not just been the skill of the unit, but also the high IQ to read what the defense is giving Grover and the offense.
“The biggest thing that has worked for us is decisively taking what the defense gives us,” Grover said. “There’s something the defense has to give up whether that’s the run game, pass game, short pass game, shots over deep or one-on-one.”
While the offense has been explosive, the defense has also been stout for The Rock. In overall defense, Slippery Rock ranks 12th nationally, holding teams to 263.7 yards per game.
Leading the defense has been senior linebacker Brandon Tuck-Hayden who has 81 tackles on the season along with 12.5 tackles for loss. Tuck-Hayden expressed how the defense hs come together throughout the season.
“We’re a brotherhood,” he said “We come together when people react. When people do one thing, we react off of one another.”
As the noon kickoff looms in Massachusetts, Slippery Rock will look to upset Assumption and move along once again.
“We are going up as road warriors up to Massachusets to knock this team off and come back with a win,” Lutz said “The goal is to be eating Thanksgiving dinner together.”