SLIPPERY ROCK — When Kutztown University cornerback Antaun Lloyd intercepted Slippery Rock quarterback Brayden Long 4 yards deep in the end zone in the fourth quarter, the only thing Lloyd saw was open space.
The redshirt senior immediately took off, returning the interception more than 100 yards for a pick six to give the third-seeded Golden Bears a two-touchdown lead on their way to a 28-16 win over fourth-seeded Slippery Rock in an NCAA Division II football quarterfinal on Saturday.
“I felt the double move,” Lloyd said. “I was in a good position so I was able to shield his body and then catch the pick and take it to the crib.”
The defensive touchdown was the most significant of five red zone stops made by the Golden Bears, riding their trademark “bend-don’t-break” defense all the way to a trip to the Final Four for the first time in program history.
“That was a huge moment for us,” Kutztown coach Jim Clements said. “He’s got some fast wheels and he just took off. I’m so proud of him and proud of all these guys.”
The Golden Bears allowed 502 yards but only two touchdowns to beat No. 15 Slippery Rock and capture their first Super Region One title and national quarterfinal victory.
“This is everything,” Lloyd said. “We practice like this, we prepare for these moments.”
Kutztown stifled The Rock’s offense, which scored on just two of its seven trips to the red zone and converted on just 2-of-7 fourth downs. Slippery Rock turned the ball over three times, all in Golden Bears’ territory.
“We didn’t give up the explosive, big play and that’s always been our game plan when we play Slippery Rock,” Clements said. “They are an explosive offense.”
The Golden Bears (12-2) opened the scoring early in the first quarter with an explosive play of their own, as quarterback Judd Novak found wide receiver Mekhi Gibson for a 53-yard touchdown. The redshirt freshman finished with three catches for 66 yards and the score.
“We wanted to get at it early,” running back Darryl Davis-McNeil said. “Our objective was to score on the first drive.”
The Rock (12-2) responded immediately, as running back Khalid Dorsey scored just over four minutes later on an 8-yard run. Dorsey finished with 55 yards on 11 carries and Slippery Rock finished with 180 rushing yards.
Kutztown fired right back, as Novak scored on a 3-yard run late in the first quarter to give the Golden Bears the lead, which they would not relinquish. Novak, a redshirt freshman, finished 11-of-16 passing for 127 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 29 yards and the score on eight attempts.
“This means the world,” Novak said. “Just got to give all glory to God. What we just did is just unbelievable.”
After a Slippery Rock fumble at the Kutztown 30-yard line, the Golden Bears scored again with less than four minutes to go in the first half. Novak found Davis-McNeil for a 16-yard touchdown to make it 21-7 after the extra point.
“Our objective is to score every drive,” Novak said. “Every drive matters, especially where we’re at right now.”
The Rock scored with eight seconds to go in the first half on a 3-yard run by Chris D’Or. The running back finished with 62 yards and the touchdown on 12 carries.
With a 21-14 lead at the break, the Golden Bears finished the first half 6-of-6 on third-down conversions. Neither team punted in the first half.
“We needed those and we converted,” Novak said. “That’s all thanks to my teammates. They caught the ball, they blocked for me.”
Slippery Rock turned it over on downs to start the second half, as it was stopped on fourth-and-5 at the Kutztown 7-yard line, 3 yards short of a first down.
Davis-McNeil fumbled in The Rock’s territory on the Golden Bears’ ensuing possession. Slippery Rock then moved right down the field, but Kutztown forced and recovered another fumble at its 4-yard line.
Linebacker Jalen DeVose recovered the fumble, which was forced by defensive back Jalen Hill. DeVose was the one who forced the fumble in the second quarter, which was recovered by linebacker Eden Johnson, a Gov. Mifflin graduate.
“We responded inside the red zone,” Clements said about the forced fumble by Hill. “That was a big turning point in the game.”
After a Kutztown punt, Slippery Rock moved down the field with ease until Lloyd’s interception early in the fourth quarter. The Rock had moved to the Golden Bears’ 5-yard line before turning it over for the third time.
“We were able to work together, swarm the ball when it mattered,” said Lloyd, who recorded his third career interception return for a touchdown. “As a team, as a unit, we played great.”
Leading 28-14 with 11:01 remaining, the Golden Bears forced Slippery Rock to turn it over on downs on its next two possessions. The Rock failed to convert on a fourth-and-6 at the Kutztown 32-yard line and a fourth-and-10 at the 17.
“It’s tough,” Slippery Rock coach Shawn Lutz said. “Give credit to Kutztown. We made some mistakes. It starts with me.”
The Golden Bears were set to punt with 1:58 remaining, but the snap went over the head of Nate Millard, a Daniel Boone graduate, and out the back of the end zone for a Slippery Rock safety.
Trailing 28-16, The Rock was stopped again on fourth down of its final drive. Slippery Rock did not convert on fourth-and-25 at the Golden Bears’ 35-yard line, sealing the win for Kutztown.
“This is nice to finally get this one,” Clements said. “To get this win for these guys is something special.”
The fourth-seeded Golden Bears will play at No. 1 seed Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado next Saturday at 3:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. The four semifinalists were re-seeded NCAA on Saturday night.
“The job is not finished,” Davis-McNeil said. “We got to keep going.”
Source: Berkshire mont