By Pete Chiodo
One of Meadville’s most difficult tests of the 2013 football season comes early as the Bulldogs head down to Slippery Rock to take on the reigning Region 5 champion Rockets in a matchup starting today at 7 p.m.
“They’re another great team this year” said Meadville coach Mike Feleppa. “They run the option on offense. They’re well coached. They make you play assignment football on defense. They’re going to be a challenge, that’s for sure.”
Last season’s meeting between these two teams saw Slippery Rock come away a 42-7 winner.
Many of the Rockets key players in that game — namely quarterback Ryan Currie and running back Jeff Croll — have since graduated.
However, Slippery Rock still appears to be a potent squad, as evidenced in the Rockets’ season-opening 44-7 victory over Pittsburgh City League team Brashear last week.
“I think we had 440 yards rushing the ball, 92 yards passing. We had 12 different guys carry the ball, so it was a good day,” said Slippery Rock head coach Brendan Hathaway.
New starting quarterback Jake Whitmer did a little bit of everything for Slippery Rock. He completed 2 of 2 passes for 92 yards and both completions were good for touchdowns. Wide receiver Chris Resseman brought in both TD passes.
Whitmer also led the Rockets on the ground, gaining 116 yards on 11 carries and scoring a pair of touchdowns.
Running back Frank Conlon added 112 yards on nine carries and scored on a 60-yard trot to open the game.
On the other side of the ball, Slippery Rock held Brashear (which was 3-6 last season) to 118 yards of offense, including just 63 on the ground on 24 carries.
“I thought our guys executed pretty well,” said Hathaway. “They ran the offense and got big stops on defense when (Brashear) drove the ball a little bit on us.”
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs are looking to bounce back from their 31-7 opening-week loss to Northwestern.
It was a 14-7 game late in the third quarter when Northwestern began to pull away, scoring a pair of late touchdowns and a field goal.
Overall, Meadville out-gained Northwestern 311 to 287, the Bulldogs picked up 16 first downs to Northwestern’s 11, and the turnover battle was a push at one apiece.
The difference was, the end zone just seemed to elude the MASH side.
“I thought we played a solid three quarters of football up until four minutes left in the third quarter,” said Feleppa. “So we have to get better at putting four quarters of football together. I thought the game was closer than the score showed — 31-7. I thought we moved the ball well, we just didn’t score. I thought we played pretty well defensively, other than two or three plays that they hurt us on.”
To get a little more pop into its offense, the Bulldogs will be shuffling it’s backfield a little bit. Ryan Harkness, who gained 113 yards on 23 carries out of a halfback spot last week, will be moving to fullback, the place where he started all of last season. Nathan Martin and Caleb Schweter — the latter of whom played wide out last week — will start the game at halfback.
“Watching (Meadville) on film, they were right there the whole entire game with some young guys starting for the first time,” Hathaway said. “They come off the ball. They moved the ball on Northwestern, which is very good team. So we expect a dogfight (tonight).”