Two years ago, the Slippery Rock football team was in the same situation it is now — at the top of its conference and a game away from the Division II playoffs.
The Rock lost that game, 21-14 to Kutztown, but with its success this season, it has a chance to do what it could not in 2011, as it will face Bloomsburg in the PSAC championship Saturday.
The game is the culmination of an extended run for a Slippery Rock team that was picked to finish third in the PSAC West.
After a promising 2-0 start, The Rock dropped its third game of the season, a 38-27 loss at Gannon, putting it an early disadvantage with a division loss. From there, however, it has won its past seven games by an average of 27.9 points, a run highlighted by a 42-16 rout of defending PSAC champion IUP on Oct. 12.
“In reality, in the past seven weeks, every week has been a playoff scenario for us knowing that we had to win in order to stay in contention and get this great opportunity for a conference championship,” Slippery Rock coach George Mihalik said in a conference call.
The Huskies boast the No. 5 rushing offense in Division II at 313.4 yards per game. The team’s interim head coach, Paul Darragh, is a Bishop Canevin graduate and former player.
Waynesburg (7-2, 5-1) at Washington & Jefferson (7-2, 6-1), 1:30 p.m., Cameron Stadium — With a victory against the Yellow Jackets, the Presidents will clinch the PAC championship, which would be their 23rd. Even with a win, Waynesburg would not be able to win the conference title. Both offenses average more than 30 points per game.
IUP (8-2) at Shippensburg (7-3), 1 p.m., Seth Grove Stadium — In a matchup of the PSAC’s two preseason favorites who are both eliminated from a possible conference championship, the Crimson Hawks would bring their two-year record to 21-4 with a victory against the Raiders.
Sacred Heart (9-2, 3-2) at Robert Morris (5-4, 3-1), noon, Joe Walton Stadium — A month ago, the Colonials were 2-4. Now, buoyed by a three-game win streak, they’re in first place in the NEC and will win the conference’s outright title with victories against the Pioneers and Saint Francis. Sto-Rox graduate and Penn State transfer Paul Jones has thrown six touchdowns and just one interception the past five games.
Central Connecticut State (4-6, 2-2) at Duquesne (5-4, 3-2), 12:10 p.m., Arthur Rooney Field — The Dukes saw their NEC championship hopes take a hit with a 10-0 loss to Sacred Heart last week. The offense, which has averaged 11.7 points per game in the past three games, might be Duquense’s bigger concern.
Case Western Reserve (4-4, 1-1) at Carnegie Mellon (3-6, 0-2), 6 p.m. — After a 3-2 start, the Tartans have lost four consecutive games, three of which came by less than three points. Quarterback Rob Kalkstein, a Gateway graduate, is 186 yards from breaking the school’s all-time career passing record.
Craig Meyer: email@example.com and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG.