SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – Jermaine Wynn Jr. tied the NCAA Division II Playoff record for single-game receptions and the eighth ranked Slippery Rock University football team outscored Shepherd University 28-7 over the last 18 minutes to pull away for a 51-30 victory in the second round of the playoffs Saturday from Mihalik-Thompson Stadium.
Wynn Jr. caught 18 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns in the game, breaking the SRU single-game record of 17 receptions that was set by Greg Hopkins in 1992 and tying the Division II Playoff record that was set by Humboldt State's Chase Krivashei in 2015.
The top seeded Rock improve to 12-0 on the year, matching the 1998 and 2015 teams for the most wins in a single-season in program history. Slippery Rock advances to the NCAA quarterfinals for the second straight year and will host Notre Dame (Ohio) Dec. 7 at 1 p.m. in a rematch of last year's regional final. Fifth-seeded Shepherd finishes its season with a 10-3 overall record.
Slippery Rock jumped out to a 20-0 lead just seven seconds into the second quarter after taking advantage of two early Shepherd lost fumbles. The Rock put up more than 200 yards of offense in the first quarter and looked to be in control.
Shepherd scored its first touchdown of the game with 11:16 to play in the second quarter to cut the deficit to 20-6. The teams exchanged short field goals to account for the final scoring in the half with SRU leading 23-9 at the break.
The Rams opened the second half with a 75-yard drive that took eight plays and was capped by a 21-yard touchdown pass from Tyson Bagent to Devin Phelps to cut the SRU lead to 23-16 with 11:32 to play in the third.
Shepherd capped a 17-0 run and tied the game at 23-23 when Bagent connected with Rodney Dorsey from 38 yards with 4:13 to play in the third.
Slippery Rock answered right away with an 81-yard drive that took just 1:38 after Roland Rivers III connected with Wynn Jr. on a 48-yard touchdown pass to put SRU up 30-23 with 2:29 to play in the third.
Rivers also had a record-setting day as the senior signal caller broke the SRU single-season records for total offense (4,449 yards), passing yards (3,825) and passing completions (274).
His fourth touchdown pass of the day to Charles Snorweah with 14:00 to play in the fourth quarter put The Rock up 37-23 after a 62-yard drive that took less than two minutes.
Shepherd stopped the run and answered almost immediately when Bagent connected with Phelps for a 67-yard touchdown on the next possession to cut the lead back to 37-30 with 13:03 to play.
Snorweah pushed the advantage back to 14 points when he broke free for a 36-yard touchdown run to cap a 75-yard drive that made it 44-30 with 9:34 to play.
Shepherd pushed the ball down the field again, but saw its comeback chances disappear when Tim Vernick intercepted Bagent in the red zone and returned the ball to midfield with 7:30 to play.
Snorweah put the cap on the win with a 38-yard touchdown run with 5:13 to play to account for the final points and Tyree Spearman intercepted Bagent on the next Shepherd series to seal the win.
The Rock defense forced a season-high five turnovers in the game with Shepherd losing three fumbles and throwing two interceptions. Shane Schuback forced and recovered two fumbles, Vernick and Spearman each had one interception and Brad Zaffram had one fumble recovery.
Slippery Rock finished the game with a season-high 652 yards of total offense with 416 passing yards and 236 rushing yards to go along with just one turnover, a lost fumble in the first half.
Shepherd's offense put up 528 total yards with 413 passing yards and 115 rushing yards.
The two quarterbacks entered the game ranked first (Rivers) and second (Bagent) in the nation in total offense and did not disappoint. Rivers completed 31-of-47 passes for 416 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions while also rushing for 33 yards and one touchdown. Bagent completed 30-of-42 passes for 413 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions.
Wynn led The Rock's receiving corps with career-highs of 18 catches for 229 yards and two touchdowns, coming up just eight yards short of Marcus Johnson's SRU record of 237 yards in a single-game. Henry Litwin caught six passes for 89 yards, Snorweah caught two passes for 33 yards and one score and Reggie Mays Jr. caught a 27-yard touchdown.
Snorweah also rushed for a career-high 163 yards and two touchdowns to finish with 196 all-purpose yards and three scores. DeSean Dinkins added 41 rushing yards on nine carries.
Shepherd entered the game ranked in the top five nationally in fewest sacks and tackles for loss allowed, but the SRU defense got to Bagent for three sacks and finished with five tackles for loss. Schuback, Chad Kuhn and Garrett de Bien all had one sack and Khadir Roberts and Zaffram each had one tackle for loss. Roberts and Zaffram finished with a team-high eight total tackles, while Schuback and Vernick each had six stops.
Bagent's top targets on the day were Dorsey with 10 catches for 129 yards and one touchdown and Phelps, who caught four passes for 143 yards and three touchdowns. Deonte Glover rushed for 136 yards and caught five passes for 30 yards.
Slippery Rock will turn its focus to the third round of the playoffs and prepare for No.13 Notre Dame (12-1) to visit Mihalik-Thompson Stadium next Saturday for a 1 p.m. kickoff.
Notes: Slippery Rock improved to 4-2 all-time against Shepherd and 2-1 against Shepherd in the NCAA Playoffs … SRU improved to 8-7 all-time in DII Playoff games … SRU advances to the NCAA quarterfinals for the second year in a row and the third time in the last five years … The Rock improved to 12-0 for the first time in program history and tied the 1998 and 2015 teams for the most wins in a single-season in school history (both finished 12-2) … SRU improved to 7-1 in home NCAA playoff games and improved to 37-3 in its last 40 home games … Jermaine Wynn Jr. caught an SRU record 18 passes, breaking the former single-game program record of 17 that was set by Greg Hopkins in 1992 … Wynn's 18 catches also tie the NCAA DII Playoff single-game record that Chase Krivashei from Humboldt State set in 2015 … Wynn Jr. caught his 13th TD pass of the season, tied for the fourth-most in SRU single-season history … he also moved up to fifth on the SRU career TD receptions ledger with 22 … Roland Rivers III broke the SRU single-season records for total offense (4,449 yards) and passing yards (3,825) that were previously owned by Nigel Barksdale from 2013 (4,199 total, 3,736 passing) … Rivers also broke the SRU single-season completion record (274) that was previously held by Tanner Garry from 2017 (268) … He increased his SRU single-season TD passing record to 44 and his career passing TD record to 72 … Jake Chapla booted his 50th career field goal to become the fourth player in PSAC history to kick 50 total field goals in a career … Chad Kuhn recorded one sack to bring his season total to 11.5, the sixth most in a single-season in SRU history … SRU head coach Shawn Lutz improved to 38-10.