VALPARAISO (0-0) at MURRAY STATE (0-0)
WHEN: Saturday, Aug. 30 - 6 p.m. CST
WHERE: Roy Stewart Stadium, Murray, KY
RADIO: 95.1 (WVUR-FM) - Drew Wolf, Scott Schraut announcing.
TV: (tape-delay) - Comcast Cable - Channel 43 in Valparaiso - Dick Harlan announcing.
THE COACHES: Valparaiso is guided by Tom Horne, who is 54-91-1 in his 15th season at Valpo. Murray State is led by Joe Pannunzio, who is 17-16 in his 4th season.
SERIES RECORD: 0-0
LAST MEETING: First Meeting
LAST YEAR: Valpo finished 1-10 and in 5th place in the Pioneer Football League North Division. Murray State finished 7-5 and was co-champion of the Ohio Valley Conference.
WHAT'S NEXT: Valpo hosts Wisconsin Lutheran next Saturday (Sept. 6) at 1 p.m.
Valpo begins its 83rd season of football on Saturday by opposing Murray State in Kentucky. The 6 p.m. CST contest pits the Crusaders against the Racers, a NCAA I-AA scholarship program. Murray State (7-5 in 2003) shared the Ohio Valley Conference Championship last season.
Ready To Roll!
Crusaders' 2003 Hopes Depend On
Continued Development Of Young Team
As Valpo begins the 2003 season, numerous questions come to mind immediately. How much better will record-setting quarterback David Macchi be in his senior year? With the receiving corps being the strength of the team, will the passing game continue to post 30-point plus scoring games throughout the entire season? Will the defense pick up where it left off in the final two games of last season and make big plays, providing better field position for the offense? Can the defensive line become a force, taking pressure off the linebackers and secondary? After starting two freshmen on the offensive line a year ago, can the guys up front help ignite a consistent rushing attack that will complement an explosive passing attack? Who will emerge as a featured running back or will the ground game be handled "by committee"?
The 2002 campaign was truly a developmental-type season for the Crusaders. The defense provided the best example of the rebuilding process as no four-year players saw any action last year. In fact, anywhere between five and seven freshmen manned starting positions at the same time during the final nine games. On the other side, the offense returns eight starters.
Despite a 1-10 record last season, Valpo could reap the benefits of having so many freshmen and sophomores gaining on-the-field experience. With so many programs primarily playing juniors and seniors the majority of the time, the Crusaders' young, yet experienced players may have an advantage over opponents' players of the same age.
In addition to welcoming back a large group of maturing players, Valpo head coach Tom Horne and his staff will rely on the continued production of several veterans. Macchi, a junior college transfer a year ago, broke a plethora of passing records in 2002. The San Jose, Cal. native shattered Valpo's single-season passing marks for yards and touchdowns. Macchi also tied Valpo's single-season completion record and broke the single-game marks for passing yards and completions.
The passing game was Valpo's strength in 2002 due to the chemistry that developed between Macchi and a trio of receivers. Rob Giancola, now a junior, finished second in the Pioneer Football League and 12th nationally with 1,103 receiving yards last season. A 6'0", 215-pounder, Giancola made 51 receptions and tied a single-season school record with 11 touchdown receptions. Kevin Knutson, a junior, emerged on the scene last year, snaring 38 passes for 645 yards and seven touchdowns. Ryan Barno, a senior, added 37 catches for 586 yards and three scores.
Four starters on the offensive line return after honing their skills as a young unit in 2002. Junior tackles Casey Losiniecki and Kyle Padgett will anchor the trenches with sophomore center Steven Hlady and sophomore guard Ryan Palonka.
The nucleus of the defense will feature middle linebacker Lawrence Canada, outside linebacker Kris Hardaway, strong safety John Tsahas and cornerback Chris Daniels. Now a senior, Canada led the Crusaders with 87 tackles. Tsahas, also a senior, ranked second on the squad with 83 stops and led Valpo in pass breakups (8), interceptions (2) and tackles for loss (6).
"Valparaiso University Football", head coach Tom Horne's TV Show, airs Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. on Channel 43 in Valpo. This week's player guest is senior quarterback David Macchi.
A LOOK AT MURRAY STATE:
The Racers (7-5) shared the Ohio Valley Conference Championship in 2003. Head Coach Joe Pannunzio will enjoy the return of split end Deandre Green. A 6'1, 215-pound senior, Green made 69 catches for 1,002 yards and six touchdowns last year. Murray State's senior signal caller Stewart Childress also returns after completing 63 percent of his passes (169-267-7 int.) for 1,894 yards and 14 TDs as a junior. Sophomore Ron Lane (546 yards, 6.2 ypc.) and junior Ulysses Odoms (592 yards, 4.7 ypc.) will share tailback duties. Defensively, senior Bobby Sanders, who led the Racers in tackles (96 in 2003) the last two seasons at linebacker, will move to strong safety.