With four strong quarters, California University’s football team can rearrange the standings at the top of the PSAC’s West Division.
And, most important, resurrect playoff hopes thought dead only a couple weeks ago after a loss to Indiana.
Cal, which is 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the conference, can create a three-way tie for first place with a victory at No. 10 Slippery Rock today (1 p.m.).
If that happens, the remaining games on the schedule take on renewed importance. If that doesn’t happen, then the Vulcans we will be playing the rest of the season for pride.
The games against Slippery Rock have not only been exciting but hard to predict. The two teams have each won seven games in the last 14 of the series. California is riding a two-game losing streak to The Rock.
“It’s the same story, different week,” said Gary Dunn, the Vulcans head coach. “We have to line up and get it done. It’s all about us. I am not worried about (the standings). I’m just worried about playing Slippery Rock this week.”
California received some good news this week when quarterback Noah Mitchell returned to practice. The sophomore was injured in the second half last week against Mercyhurst and was replaced by Josh Dale.
Mitchell completed 11 of 14 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown before he was injured. Dale came in and had a strong game, completing 5 of 7 passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns.
“We expect Noah to be in there but we have confidence in Josh,” said Dunn. “Josh came in and did a nice job for us last week, leading us to two touchdowns.”
Nelson Brown continued his strong season by gaining 119 yards and a touchdown.
Slippery Rock (5-0, 8-0) has an offense that has scored 40 or more points in every game this season.
“They have an explosive offense,” said Dunn. “We have a senior quarterback who is very talented and strong running game. They make you defend the whole field. They are solid everywhere. I haven’t seen a weakness yet.”
Quarterback Roland Rivers is completing a whopping 73 percent of his passes for 2,533 yards and leads NCAA Division II with 28 touchdowns. He has been intercepted just five times.
“We have to keep him in the pocket,” said Dunn. “He can hurt you when plays break down. So we have to keep him in the pocket and when we don’t, we have to make sure the receivers are covered.”
Rivers can also run with the football, gaining 388 yards and scoring six touchdowns.