Story and photo courtesy of Mercyhurst Athletics
ERIE, Pa. - The Mercyhurst University football team jumped out to a 21-0 lead after the opening quarter and held off Slippery Rock University 38-23 on a rainy Saturday afternoon at Tullio Field as part of the annual Homecoming Weekend festivities at the school. With the victory, Mercyhurst has now won three straight to improve to 3-1 overall and 2-0 in the PSAC West. Slippery Rock dropped to 2-2 overall and 1-1 in the western division.
Thanks in large part to the dynamic backfield duo of redshirt freshman Brandon Brown-Dukes and junior Allen Jones II, the Lakers ran for 254 yards and four touchdowns against a Slippery Rock defense that had allowed 88 yards per game on the ground heading into Saturday's contest. Brown-Dukes became the second player in school history to have three consecutive 150-yard games on the ground, finishing the afternoon with 160 yards and two touchdowns. Meanwhile, Jones had his second 100-yard rushing game in the last three weeks, finishing the day with 102 yards and a pair of scores.
Brown-Dukes tied Richard Stokes, the school's all-time rushing leader, who had three straight 150-yard games against Ferris State, Wayne State, and Gannon in successive weeks back in 2007.
On their second possession of the game, the Lakers jumped on the board first with 6:19 left in the opening quarter. After a pair of carries by Brown-Dukes that totaled 16 yards, redshirt junior quarterback Anthony Vendemia found a wide open Paris Bruner, who got behind The Rock defense, and sprinted down the sidelines for 51 yards before being knocked out of bounds at Slippery Rock's 13-yard line. Two plays later, Brown-Dukes plunged into the endzone from a yard out, putting the Lakers on the scoreboard.
Then, on Slippery Rock's second play of its ensuing drive, senior Todd Wingate forced and recovered a fumble at the Slippery Rock 22-yard line, giving the Lakers excellent field position to add on to the lead. And, the Lakers did not waste much time doing so. On their third play of the drive, Vendemia found redshirt freshman Devyn Woods on a nine-yard catch-and-run into the endzone for a 14-0 Mercyhurst lead with 4:34 left in the first quarter.
The Lakers were not done. On Mercyhurst's next possession, head coach Marty Schaetzle opened up the playbook, putting a wrinkle into the offense to catch Slippery Rock off guard. Vendemia tossed the ball to wide receiver Vladmir Rock, who then launched a pass to Bruner down the right sideline for a 41-yard gain to the Slippery Rock 23-yard line. Three plays later, Jones scampered into the endzone from 14 yards out, extending the Lakers' lead to 21-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Slippery Rock got on the board with 13 minutes left in the first half when quarterback Jared Buck got across the goal line from a yard out, cutting the Mercyhurst lead to 21-7. But, the Lakers would come right back to regain a three-touchdown lead. Brown-Dukes got through a hole in The Rock defense and ran 59 yards down the right sideline before being knocked out of bounds at the Slippery Rock five-yard line. After a Laker timeout, Brown-Dukes' number was called again and he got into the endzone for a 28-7 lead with 11:01 left in the opening half.
The offense would settle down until the Lakers put together a 15-play drive that ran off the final 6:27 of the first half. Mercyhurst methodically drove down the field, getting chunks of yards at a time, and looked as if they had scored another touchdown in the waning seconds when Vendemia found a wide open Ryan Bartizal in the endzone. However, the play was nullified on a Mercyhurst penalty and the Lakers would have to settle for a 32-yard field goal from junior Steven Wakefield as time expired to end the first half with Mercyhurst ahead 31-7.
The Lakers would jump out to a 38-7 lead with 1:38 left in the third quarter on a three yard run by Jones. The drive was aided by a 42-yard pass from Vendemia to Woods to get the Lakers into the Slippery Rock half of the field.
Slippery Rock would mount a furious comeback in the fourth quarter and would make things relatively interesting. Buck cut the Laker lead to 38-14 with 13:07 left on a seven-yard run. Then, after the Lakers went three-and-out, Slippery Rock scored again on a 20-yard run by Jaimire Dutrieuille, making the score 38-21 with 8:39 left.
Mercyhurst again went three-and-out on its next possession and then gave up a safety when Wakefield could not handle the snap on a punt from inside the Lakers' endzone, cutting the Mercyhurst lead to two possessions with 6:27 left. Dutrieuille gave Slippery Rock excellent field position with a 33-yard return on the free kick after the safety and The Rock started their next drive at the Laker 43-yard line. Mercyhurst would, however, come up with a defensive stand, getting a stop on a fourth-and-eight to end The Rock's drive.
Slippery Rock had one more chance, again getting into Laker territory with plenty of time left. However, Mercyhurst stopped The Rock on fourth down again and Mercyhurst was able to run out the clock for the victory.
Mercyhurst improved to 3-2 lifetime against Slippery Rock and the trend continued with the home team winning all five games in the series.
Vendemia only attemped 11 passes on the afternoon, but completed seven of them for 143 yards and a touchdown. Bruner, who had four receptions coming into Saturday's game, had four catches for 114 yards. Woods had two catches for 51 yards.
Erie native, and Cathedral Prep graduate, Akeem Satterfield led Slippery Rock with 90 yards rushing on 16 carries. Buck completed 13-of-27 for 117 yards and was sacked four times, two each by senior Serge Augustin and junior Ricky Mathews. LaQuinn Stephens-Howling was Buck's favorite target, catching five passes, but for only ten yards.
Mercyhurst, after back-to-back home games, will go back on the road next Saturday for a trip to Cheyney University to take on the Wolves. Mercyhurst is 2-0 lifetime against Cheyney with the two teams last meeting back in 2009. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 p.m.