By CHUCK HOUSTEAU
YOUNGSTOWN -- The Division II Slippery Rock football team lost to Youngstown State University for the 11th time in 11 tries Thursday night at Stambaugh Stadium.
In the previous 10 contests, the closest margin of defeat was 16 points in a 28-12 loss to the Penguins in the 1995 season.
Although The Rock lost Thursday night's contest 51-21 there was a time when Slippery Rock had the Penguins' attention and was very much in a game that many didn't think it had a chance to win.
At the 11:08 mark of the third quarter, Slippery Rock's Travis Sarver scored on a 29-yard run to pull The Rock to within seven points at 28-21.
"We had good momentum at that point," said Slippery Rock coach Dr. George Mihalik. "I thought our score at the end of the first half to make it 28-14 was real big and then we come out in the second half and force them to punt.
"Then we went right down and scored to get back into the game."
Slippery Rock was nearly even with YSU in yardage and first downs at that point in the game and looked like they would be a capable opponent for the rest of the game.
The Rock scored on two of it's five possessions in the first half and had amassed 210 yards of offense by halftime.
But Slippery Rock could not stop the YSU offense and turned the ball over late in the third quarter to end any hope of an upset.
YSU quarterback Tom Zetts and tailback Monquantae Gibson rallied the Penguins following Sarver's 29-yard scoring run by marching 79 yards in 12 plays to regain control of the game.
Zetts found receiver Da'Michael Horne in the back of the end zone for a 21-yard scoring play to put the Penguins back up by 14 points.
"That was a key drive in the game to get the score back to 14 points," said YSU coach John Heacock. "We answered the bell when we had to."
YSU scored three more times on a touchdown run by Marcus Mason, a safety and a touchdown pass by Mike Schneider to Brandon Nicholson.
Heacock said he wasn't surprised how well Slippery Rock played against his team.
"They did a great job of game planning," Heacock said. "They put good drives together all night.
"They have a good football team and we knew that going in," Heacock said. "They showed that out there tonight."
Mihalik said his team takes no solace in losing but liked what he saw from his offense which put 21 points on the board.
"Losing hurts, that's the bottom line," Mihalik said. "I think you take away from a game like this is the things you did well against a team with pre-season hype that was ranked third, fifth, seventh in the country.
"There were a lot of positives especially on offense," he said. "If we can keep those and improve on the negatives we have a chance to be a pretty good football team."