Valparaiso (0-2, 0-0 PFL)
Game #3: Saturday, Sept. 15 - 1 p.m.
Duquesne (1-1, 0-0 NEC)
Brown Field (5,000 - ProGrass) - Valparaiso, Ind.
This Week in Crusader Football: Valparaiso returns home for its final non-league game of the 2012 season Saturday afternoon, as the Crusaders host Duquesne out of the Northeast Conference. The game is the last of three non-league contests to prepare the Crusaders for the Pioneer Football League slate.
Previously: Valparaiso opened up the road portion of its 2012 schedule last Saturday afternoon, falling 59-0 to Youngstown State, which entered the game ranked #6 nationally among FCS squads, in Youngstown, Ohio. Redshirt sophomore Eric Hoffman was 28-of-37 through the air for the Crusaders and did not throw an interception, but only threw for 139 yards while completing passes to 12 different Valpo receivers. Fred Gladney led the Crusaders with seven receptions for 31 yards.
Next Up: Valpo opens the 2012 PFL schedule next Saturday afternoon as the Crusaders fly out to the West Coast to take on San Diego, which shared the 2011 PFL regular season title.
On the Air: For the eighth straight season, the Valpo Sports Radio Network will be home to all 11 Crusader football games in 2012. All 11 games can be heard live on WAKE (1500 AM, Valparaiso), online through www.valpoathletics.com or by downloading the WAKE Radio app for Android or iPhone devices. Todd Ickow will handle all the play-by-play, with Travis Lucian adding the color commentary this week.
Head Coach Dale Carlson: Dale Carlson is 1-23 in his third season with the Crusaders and 111-126-3 overall entering his 24th season as a collegiate head coach. He arrived at Valpo from Ohio Dominican where he began the Ohio Dominican program from scratch in 2004, just as he did at Tri-State University prior to his tenure with the Panthers. He is the 16th head coach in Valpo history, and just the seventh since 1946.
Series Notes: For the second straight week, the Crusaders will face a squad that they matched up against for the first time in 2011. Valpo and Duquesne met last season in Pittsburgh, a 49-14 Duquesne victory. Nick Malantis threw a pair of touchdown passes to Kelvin Smarwt and Dale Cook in that contest, while the Dukes rushed for 425 yards.
Scouting Duquesne: Duquesne enters today at 1-1, beating fellow PFL squad Dayton last week. The Dukes return nine starters from a team which was co-champions of the NEC last season. Senior running back Larry McCoy leads all of NCAA Division I in career rushing attempts (742) and is second in rushing yards (3,652), while senior safety Serge Kona, the 2011 NEC Defensive Player of the Year, was the only player from the NEC to earn Associated Press All-America honors (third team) last season.
Wrapping Up 2011: The Crusaders captured their first win of the Dale Carlson era in the home finale last year by defeating Campbell, 34-31. Valpo ended the season 1-10 and 1-7 in PFL play, but returns plenty of experience for 2012, as six starters are back on both sides of the ball.
Cassara Racks Up the Yards: Sophomore Andrew Cassara has been potent returning kicks so far this season for the Crusaders. Cassara leads the PFL with an average of 24 yards per kickoff return, having tallied ten returns for 240 yards with a long of 43. The sophomore, who has also carried the ball twice for 11 yards, caught four passes for 37 yards and returned one punt for eight yards, also paces the league in all-purpose yards, averaging 148 yards/game, good for 14th nationally.
Accurate Passer: Redshirt sophomore quarterback Eric Hoffman has been accurate throwing the football so far this year. Hoffman has completed 63% of his passes in 2012 after narrowly missing the 60% mark last year in his rookie campaign. He also has not thrown an interception through the season’s first two games.
Spreading the Ball Around: Hoffman has had plenty of targets in the passing game, as 12 different Crusaders have at least one catch already this year. Redshirt sophomore Fred Gladney leads the team with eight receptions, including a career-best seven last week at YSU, while fifth-year senior Tim Bennett has a team-high 65 receiving yards.
Punting Away: Senior punter Greg Wood has continued to be a consistent producer in helping the Crusaders with field position so far in 2012. Wood has punted 13 times through two games and is again averaging better than 40 yards per punt. The senior has a long this year of 54 yards, and has placed five of his efforts inside the 20-yard line.
Grask on the Stop: Junior defensive back Alex Grask led the Crusaders in tackles in each of their first two games. Grask, who entered the season with 78 career tackles, made a career-high 11 tackles in the opener against the Pumas and tallied nine tackles last week at YSU.
Putting Up Points: While the Crusaders came up just short of the victory in their season opener, they lit up the scoreboard to the tune of 34 points. The 34 points scored matches the second-most in a single game by a Valpo team since the start of the 2009 campaign, eclipsed only by last year’s season opener, when the Crusaders scored 35 in a loss to Franklin.
Running It In: All four of the Crusaders’ offensive touchdowns in the season opener came via the ground, as Gabe Ali-El scored from 11 and 5 yards out, while Jake Hutson ran one in from 2 yards and Ryan Lehr snuck it across from 1 yard out. It was the first time Valpo had a four-touchdown day on rushes since Oct. 11, 2008, when the Crusaders scored four rushing touchdowns in an overtime win over Davidson.
Team Captains: Valpo entered the 2012 season with a pair of captains, with senior tight end Mike Gerton representing the offense and senior cornerback Alan Porter Jr. representing the defense. Due to a season-ending injury to Porter, junior safety Alex Grask has been appointed defensive captain for the rest of the season.
Crusaders Picked 10th in Preseason Poll: The head coaches selected Valparaiso to finish 10th in the Pioneer Football League this season according to the preseason poll. The prognosticators selected San Diego to take home the 2012 championship.