SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — Slippery Rock defensive end Marcus Martin became the all-time NCAA record holder for career sacks among all divisions to lead The Rock to a 24-9 win over Clarion University in Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Western Division action Saturday from Mihalik-Thompson Stadium.
Martin had a day for the ages, breaking Slippery Rock single-game records for sacks and tackles for loss on the way to becoming the new NCAA record holder in career sacks. He finished his day with 4.5 sacks, 6.5 tackles for loss, a forced fumble and an 84-yard fumble return for a touchdown, which marked his first career score. His 4.5 sacks bring his career total to 54.5, topping Mike Czerwien from Waynesburg (Division III) for the most sacks of any player at any level of NCAA football. Martin’s 50.0 sacks entering the day were already the most of any player to ever play at the Division I or II levels, but he was fourth all-time with three Division III players ahead of him.
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The Rock improved to 7-2 on the year and 4-2 in PSAC West games, while Clarion dropped to 1-8 overall and 1-5 in league games.
Slippery Rock’s defense was dominant most of the day, with the exception of allowing three long runs, including a 60-yard touchdown in the second half. The defense made up for a season-low performance from the offense on a cold and rainy day that saw SRU go for just 214 yards of total offense. The nation’s top passing offense entering the game, The Rock managed just 134 passing yards on nine completions. SRU also rushed for 80 yards while Clarion’s offense put up 247 yards with 156 on the ground and 91 through the air.
Tanner Garry, who entered the game as the top passer among all levels of NCAA football, was held to 57 passing yards on a 7-of-24 effort. Much of that had to do with the weather, but Garry’s receivers also dropped seven passes in the game. The best passing plays of the day both came on trick plays, first with Terrell Gabriel hitting Brian McNally on a fake punt that went for 30 yards and then with Marcus Johnson heaving a 47-yard pass to Carnel Harley.
Isiah Neely rushed for 62 yards and one touchdown to pace the offense, while Chacar Berry added 37 rushing yards and one score. Harley caught two passes for 62 yards and McNally finished with two catches for 34 yards. Milly Raye caught two passes to extend his streak to 35 straight games with a catch, but Johnson, who was one of the nation’s leading receivers entering the game, was held without a catch for the first time this year.
The Rock defense finished one tackle for loss shy of the program record for a single-game with 19, including seven sacks. Martin led that effort, but SRU also got strong play from freshmen linebackers Jacarri Cleckley and Trysten McDonald. Cleckley finished with a game-high 14 total tackles and 2.0 TFL, while McDonald added eight stops, 2.5 TFL and one interception. Trey Blandford had 2.5 TFL and Tim Soave and Chad Kuhn each had 2.0 TFL on the day. Khadir Roberts finished with three pass breakups to lead the secondary.
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Clarion was led by Mylique McGriff, who rushed for 131 yards and one touchdown. He had two runs of more than 50 yards in the game, including a 60-yard TD. Jeff Clemens completed 10-of-30 passes for 91 yards with no touchdowns and one interception and no Clarion receivers went for more than 28 yards. Clarion’s defense was led by Alec Heldreth and Tyrone Archie with two sacks each.
Both teams sputtered out of the gate offensively until The Rock got on the board with a 43-yard field goal from Jake Chapla with 4:32 to play in the opening period.
SRU fumbled the ball away deep in its own territory on the next possession to set Clarion up in the red zone, but Martin and Bishop Gethers combined for a strip sack that Martin recovered and returned 84 yards for a TD to put The Rock up 10-0 with 48 seconds left in the first period.
Clarion would end up visiting the red zone four times, including two drives with a first and goal inside the eight-yard line, but came away with no touchdowns on those drives and converted a field goal on just one of the four trips.
That field goal came from 25 yards out with 7:52 to play in the second quarter, but SRU answered right back when Johnson returned the ensuing kickoff 55 yards into Clarion territory to set up a short field. Neely punched one in a few plays later to make it 17-3. SRU then scored on its next possession as well, this time capped by a short TD run from Berry to take a 24-3 lead into halftime.
Clarion got on the board with a long TD run with 9:12 to play in the fourth quarter, but could never muster a comeback.
Slippery Rock will travel to Seton Hill next Saturday for a noon kickoff in the final week of PSAC West play before visiting Kutztown in the final week of the regular season.