Cal-Slippery Rock football rivalry as hot as ever


By Josh Richardson

his will be the 78th all-time meeting between Cal and Slippery Rock. The Rock leads the overall series 45-29-3 including the last two games held at Slippery Rock

Matt Hagy, Sports Editor

A rivalry is defined in the Oxford Dictionaries as a competition for the same objective or for superiority in the same field. That describes the Cal/Slippery Rock football rivalry perfectly. Every year these two teams are at or close to the top of the PSAC west standings. These are two of the most superior teams in the PSAC for the past decade. Seven out of the last nine PSAC west titles have been won by either Slippery Rock or Cal. Each team has also won a PSAC championship in that time period with Cal winning it in 2008, and then the Rock just one year ago. When these two teams meet, championships are on the line.

     “If there is always one thing about Cal is that they are always well coached,” said Slippery Rock head coach George Mihalik. “They have great talent on both sides of the ball and we get their best every time we face them.”

      In the 2011 meeting, both teams came into the matchup with spotless division records. It was also Mid-October and Slippery Rock’s homecoming, just like it will be this Saturday. Coming out with black jerseys instead of the normal green, the Rock battered Cal’s high-powered offense and came away with a 17-3 victory.

     The rivalry was so intense there was nearly a brawl between the two teams as they headed into the locker room for halftime. Slippery Rock used that game as a boost and went on to win the PSAC west and represent the division in the PSAC championship game that season.

     Two years later the prize was actually with the winner clinching a spot in the PSAC championship game. The result was no different for the Vulcans as the offense again sputtered and could not contain Rock quarterback Nigel Barksdale in losing 35-17 and saw any hope at a PSAC championship and NCAA playoff berth go up in smoke. There have also been times where if one team was out of division title contention and one was, the team out of it would ruin the contenders season.

     This most recently came in 2012 when Cal was sitting pretty at the top of the PSAC West standings unbeaten in the division and just needing one more win to clinch a spot in the PSAC championship. They welcomed in Slippery Rock on a rain soaking day at Adamson Stadium in late October and after trying to rally from 15 points down in the 4th quarter, the Vulcans lost a heartbreaker 28-26 after backup quarterback Cody Schroeder threw a game ending interception deep in Slippery Rock territory with under a minute to go. The devastation lingered over the Vulcans as the next week they were humiliated in Erie against Mercyhurst to lose both a division title, and a NCAA playoff berth.

    Since the new decade began in 2010, Slippery Rock has won three out of the five meetings against the Vulcans. But nothing was as bad for the Vulcans as from 1990-2002 when the Rock won 14 straight games in the rivalry. Cal finally slayed the Rock demons in 2003 with an overtime victory at home on a 3rd down touchdown pass after Cal stopped Slippery Rock on their previous drive in overtime. That game was a landmark in re-heating the rivalry after it became dormant with the Rock dominating and Cal not really being in contention for many seasons. Finally who could forget last year’s contest?  It was Slippery Rock who came to Cal’s homecoming and the Vulcans were not so housewarming to their guests from the north.

    The Vulcans smashed the Rock with an unbelievable display of offense in the first half and forced five Rock turnovers to win 48-26. One year later to present day the venue has shifted back to Mihalik-Thompson Stadium at Slippery Rock, a place where the Vulcans have not won since a 44-7 thrashing of Slippery Rock in 2009. With homecoming festivities going on that day there is one thing that will be for sure, the Rock fan base will be out in full force.

    “Homecoming is a special time at Slippery Rock and it really is for any school,” Mihalik said. “We have a large support from the students here and also from the community as well in Slippery Rock. It will be wonderful to see alumni come back and the stadium will definitely be full for the game.”

    Once again Cal and Slippery Rock see themselves as contenders for the PSAC west title. One game is separating the two schools and the winner will surely see themselves rise with a win on Saturday. After being upset by Seton Hill two weeks ago, the Rock dismantled Gannon on the road last week and also has welcomed back star running back Shamar Greene after missing just two games due to injury.

    The challenge is tough for the Vulcans but they have been in this spot before and can leave a lasting legacy on this rivalry by crashing the party Saturday. The objective is clear for both teams: win and move closer to the division title to gain superiority. Superiority which keeps the rivalry alive and well.