Fighting Scots fall to 9th ranked Slippery Rock

Category:  Sports
Friday, October 25th, 2019 at 10:57 AM
Fighting Scots fall to 9th ranked Slippery Rock by Paul Petrianni
CJ Reyes-Diggs cuts up field. | Photo: Faith Hannah

The Edinboro Fighting Scots football team came into their Saturday matchup with Slippery Rock a huge underdog, the 9th ranked squad having posted an impressive 6-0 record coming in and sitting at the top of the conference. In overall Division II play, The Rock had further excelled, averaging 51.7 points per game, good enough for second best offense in the nation.

They would continue this undefeated campaign with a 41-30 victory over Edinboro at Sox Harrison Stadium.

On the offensive side for ‘Boro, they’ve went through several signal-callers as they aim to find their footing. They got off to a slow start with Andrew Tomko at the helm. Then, after an injury to Tomko, Jordan Castelli played quarterback for the Scots the past two games. After Castelli was then injured, redshirt sophomore Levi Becker was called upon.

Becker scored his first touchdown against Mercyhurst in relief on Oct. 12 and would go 7-19, picking up 84 yards through the air. He was more prepared this time around.

“It was definitely better to get the start than to come into the game already in progress,” said Becker. “I was able to get a lot more reps in with the first string in practice this week. That helped me a bunch with understanding the timing of my running backs and wideouts.”

Becker said he received a ton of instructions and help from the other injured quarterbacks.

“We are a pretty close group of guys, and we work well together. It was great to have them on the sidelines letting me know what they saw while I was on the field.”

The Fighting Scots opened the game receiving the football, where they put together an impressive drive; they wouldn’t be rolling over against the higher-ranked opponent. Led by Becker, the drive featured two big plays by ‘Boro running backs, along with a clever offensive game plan.

The plan was designed to ease the redshirt sophomore into the game with a ton of different looks. For example, a few snaps were taken in the wildcat formation, where the ball was snapped directly to the running back. Dorian Woody would take one of these snaps for a 22-yard gain, which was followed up by a 23-yard run on the next play by CJ Reyes-Diggs, bringing the Scots to Slippery Rock’s 12-yard line. The drive would stall, bringing in kicker Vicente Arriagada for a successful field goal.

Leading the explosive Slippery Rock offense was senior quarterback Roland Rivers, a dynamic dual-threat field general who can beat you with his arm and his legs. Rivers would quickly lead The Rock’s offense down the field with his arm, then capping off the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run.

After a subsequent Woody fumble, and a missed kick by Slippery Rock, the ‘Boro offense began marching down the field once again. More great play calling ensued; they’d run a number of snaps from the full-house formation, helping Becker hide his cards.

A huge completion of 45 yards to star wideout Ta’Nauz Gregory helped the ‘Boro offense cross midfield. They continued to move the ball with both running backs, and eventually Woody would punch it into the end zone, putting the Scots ahead 10-7 after the Arriagada extra point.

The explosive Slippery Rock offense refused to be outscored, though. They answered with a touchdown of their own, despite Scots defender Tarique Smith seemingly making plays all over the field. The 10-play, 84-yard drive put The Rock back on top, 14-10.

Gregory would continue to make big plays for ‘Boro, something he’s done his entire career, by taking the ensuing kickoff to the Slippery Rock 41-yard line, a return of 56 yards. The Fighting Scots offense continued to roll, pushing the Rock down a hill. A great run on first down from Reyes-Diggs, along with a pass interference on the defense, would set the ‘Boro offense right outside the red zone.

Becker would then find Khalil Jackson on a short pass, where he’d turn up field and find his way into the end zone. It was his first career touchdown. The Arrigada extra point was good, taking the score to 17-14.

The Rock would score two more times before the half, each on very long and methodical drives. A 75-yard drive ended with a 10-yard touchdown run by DeSean Dinkins. Another went for 95 yards, starting when pinned deep in their own territory and led by Rivers (7-9 passing). The second extra point was blocked by Anthony Mendicino.

The Rock would lead 27-17 going into the locker room.

Brandon Anderson came up big for the Fighting Scots as the second half began. He captured his third pick of the year, jumping the Rivers pass. The interception would lead to three points for ‘Boro as they pushed the ball to the 17-yard line. From there, Arriagada would knock in a 34-yard field goal to make it a one score game, 27-20.

The ensuing Slippery Rock drive would stall out after a couple of huge stops by the impressive Edinboro defense. They would attempt a 46-yard field goal, but the kick went wide left.

With the ball back, the Scots came out firing, assisted by a slew of penalty markers. A 20-yard completion from Becker to Jon Long put the ‘Boro offense in position to score. The drive wouldn’t progress further, though, so in came Arrigada once again. He added three more points off a 44-yard boot, making it 27-23.

From here, Slippery Rock would stifle the hopes of an Edinboro comeback, putting together a 10-play, 65-yard drive. Rivers would star once again, completing an 11-yard touchdown pass to finish it off. The Rock would move ahead, 34-23, with a little over 13 minutes remaining.

The Scots had one final opportunity, in which they almost got back into the game. On the first play of the drive, Gregory and Becker connected for a gain of 25 yards. On the very next play, Becker hurled a pass downfield to Andre Dowdell, which was caught for a touchdown. However, an illegal procedure penalty removed points from the scoreboard, crushing the spirits of the Fighting Scots. The drive instead resulted in a punt.

Slippery Rock would tack on another touchdown, pushing the lead to 41-23. The Scots would respond in garbage time on a pass from Becker to Gregory, finishing the game with a score of 41-30.

Regardless of who is under center, Gregory continues to produce. He tied a career high with 11 receptions for a career high 169 yards receiving. His 11th career 100-yard receiving game, he’s also caught a touchdown in four straight contests. He also added 111 yards on kick returns, giving him 280 all-purpose yards.

Becker explained that having a guy like Gregory on the field really helped him get a grasp of things.

“Not only is he a great receiver, but he understands the coverages and has great input as to what he’s seeing down the field,” said the quarterback.

“We had four players in total who had two or more receptions. It’s great to be able to spread the ball around to those guys as well,” Becker continued.

Gregory continues to break Edinboro records for receiving. He passed James Clark to become the all-time leader in receptions at 210. And each game he inches closer to the records for receiving yardage and touchdowns; he is currently second in both categories. He needs 124 yards and four touchdowns to become the all-time leader in all three major records through the air.

The Fighting Scots will next travel to Greensburg, Pennsylvania to face off with Seton Hill University on Saturday at noon.
Edinboro is currently 1-6 overall and 1-3 in conference play.

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