Without Tomko, football squanders early lead, falls to Rock

Category:  Sports
Wednesday, October 17th, 2018 at 6:59 PM
Without Tomko, football squanders early lead, falls to Rock by Chris Rosato Jr.
Photo: Kelly Staschak

A touchdown in the first minute wasn’t the jump-start Edinboro’s football team was hoping for as they quickly fell behind and ultimately lost to Slippery Rock University, 59-28. It was their second loss in as many weeks.

“I told the kids that we loved them and we’re proud of their effort. They fought their tails off,” Head Football Coach Wayne Bradford said after the away game. “But we’re a proud program. We’re a proud football team. We’re a proud staff. We’ll take it like men and move forward.”

Following a 27-yard kickoff return from Ta’Nauz Gregory on the opening play, running back Walter Fletcher rushed for 56 yards on ‘Boro’s first play from the line of scrimmage. Two plays later, quarterback Jarrod Kellar connected with A.J. Turner on a 14-yard touchdown pass and Jake Monroe was solid on the extra point to put Edinboro up 7-0 just 58 seconds into the contest.

Kellar took all of Edinboro’s snaps as the Fighting Scots were without Andrew Tomko after he suffered an injury the week prior. Head Football Coach Wayne Bradford said the coaches were comfortable with the play call adjustments needed with the new quarterback.

“We knew what Jarrod’s skillset is and what he could do with the football,” he said. “And then obviously we wanted to establish the run game and get the run game going. I think we did that pretty well.”

Kellar said he was received well during last week’s practices and that he used his previous experience starting at Lenoir-Rhyne University to help prepare for the start.

“The support I got from my teammates all week was great and that made it a lot easier,” Kellar said. “I think those two years of starting just allowed me to play comfortable and not be nervous out there.”

The Fighting Scots scored their first touchdown since the closing minutes of the homecoming game against Gannon, but it didn’t matter, as the defense couldn’t contain Slippery Rock’s offense. The Rock marched 70 yards, eating up over 4 minutes of clock time in their opening drive, evening the score with a Chacar Berry 1-yard touchdown rush.

After a three-and-out on Edinboro’s next drive, Slippery Rock quarterback Roland Rivers hooked up with Mike Merhaut for 57 yards, setting running back Wes Hills up for a 22-yard touchdown run. Trailing by seven halfway through the first quarter, Edinboro would not catch up for the rest of the game.

Bradford said the defense struggled to chase down Rivers, leaving the Slippery Rock offense to have their way on the field.

“We couldn’t stop them on defense...we would get them into third down but we had no answer,” he said.

The Rock added to their lead with a 36-yard field goal from Jake Chapla, who had been named the PSAC West Special Teams Player of the Week for the previous week. 

A 44-yard kickoff return from Kyle Galyk and an offsides penalty against Slippery Rock then set the Fighting Scots up with excellent field position on Edinboro’s side of the field. Fletcher’s two runs and a reception accounted for all 46 yards of Edinboro’s drive to cut their deficit to 17-14.

That three-point difference was the closest Edinboro would sit for the rest of the game.

Slippery Rock then scored three touchdowns in a row before ‘Boro found the end zone for the last time in the first half. Another Slippery Rock touchdown in the last three minutes brought the half to a close with The Rock leading 45-21.

Slippery Rock outscored Edinboro 14-7 in the third quarter to take a 59-28 lead. Neither team scored in the final quarter.

Fletcher rushed for 144 yards in the effort, the fifth time he’s crossed the 100-yard mark this season. Kellar had 22 completions in 44 chances, good for 261 yards and three touchdowns with just one pick, in his first career start at Edinboro. 

“We lost and at the end of the day that’s all that matters,” Kellar said of his performance. “That’s all I’m worried about is the result.”

Strong safety Brandon Anderson led the team in tackles for the third time this season with 12, followed closely behind by redshirt freshman linebacker Connor Kelly. Kelly was part of Edinboro’s future that the coaches have gotten to see in action with ‘Boro falling far behind late in games the past two weeks.

“Jon Long made some really good plays. Khalil Jackson did some really good things. So we got to see some of those guys,” Bradford said. “Connor Kelly, the start today with Trey being banged up, did some really good things. We’ve got a good group.”

Kelly said his redshirt year helped him adjust to the speed of college football. He has been near the top of the team’s tackles at Mercyhurst and Slippery Rock.

“The coaches did a great job getting me prepared and I have a great guy in front of me, Trey Hall, who’s been teaching me everything,” Kelly said. “The last two years he’s been a great leader and everything, but it feels good to finally get out there and play.”

The rivalry game was expected to get heated, and the teams did not disappoint. Edinboro and Slippery Rock combined for 17 penalties, but emotions came to a boiling point as the clock ticked to zero at the end of the first half. As both teams made their way to the locker rooms — both located under the home bleachers — players began shoving and shouting at each other, causing the referees to intervene and prevent a brawl from occurring.

Edinboro’s record fell to 4-3 overall and 1-3 in the PSAC West with the loss. They return home to host Seton Hill University on Saturday at noon. The Griffins were winless until this past weekend when they upset Mercyhurst with a 69-yard punt return touchdown with two minutes left in the fourth quarter. They are now 1-6 overall and 1-3 in the division.

“They haven’t been great defensively, but they had a big win [Saturday],” Bradford said of Seton Hill. “So the monkey is off their back. But same thing: they’re a proud program and they have a proud staff, so they’ll be ready to play.”

Christopher Rosato Jr. can be reached at sports.spectator@gmail.com.

Tags: sports, football

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