Saint Joseph’s (0-0, 0-0 GLVC)
at Valparaiso (0-1, 0-0 PFL)
Game #2: Saturday, Sept. 6, 7 p.m. CDT
Brown Field (5,000 - ProGrass) - Valparaiso, Ind.
This Week in Crusader Football: Brown Field will get its first glimpse of the 2014 Valparaiso Crusaders as Saint Joseph’s makes the trip to Valpo for a Saturday night showdown under the lights. This marks the third consecutive season that the Pumas face the Crusaders in their season opener. The Brown and Gold are coming off a 45-6 loss to Western Illinois in their opener last week in Macomb. Junior Brandon Hall recorded a touchdown run with two and a half minutes remaining to give Valparaiso its lowest margin of defeat versus a scholarship program in eleven seasons. The Crusaders were whistled for just two penalties the entire evening in a tilt that was delayed 32 minutes due to lightning.
On the Air: For the ninth straight season, the Valpo Sports Radio Network is home to all 12 Crusader football games in 2014. All 12 games can be heard live on WVUR (95.1FM, Valparaiso), online through www.valpoathletics.com. Todd Ickow will handle all the play-by-play, with Dave Huseman adding the color commentary this week. Saturday’s game will be the first of four with free video streaming available on valpoathletics.com. Live stats will also be available through www.valpoathletics.com.
Head Coach Dave Cecchini: Saturday evening will serve as Cecchini’s first game at Brown Field. He is 0-1 following the loss to Western Illinois in the season opener last Thursday. Cecchini most recently served as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Lehigh where the Mountain Hawks captured a Patriot League Championship in 2010. His path to Valpo also included stops at Harvard and The Citadel, where he mentored QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and WR Andre Roberts to eventual professional careers. While Cecchini made a name for himself as offensive coordinator at Harvard in 2003, the Crimson compiled the fourth-best offense in the nation en route to an undefeated 10-0 season and an Ivy League Championship. Furthermore, The Citadel set 16 offensive records under his tutelage. As a receiver at Lehigh, Cecchini garnered All-American honors and established numerous single-season school and Patriot League records.
All-Time Series: This will be the 66th game played between Saint Joseph’s and Valparaiso. Saint Joseph’s leads the all-time series 35-28-2 and has won seven consecutive over the Brown and Gold. The last two contests between these teams were decided by a combined five points (36-34 in 2012, 34-31 in 2013). Valpo won its 200th game in school history over the Pumas on October 26th, 1968. The only team Valpo has faced more times is Butler (72).
Wrapping Up 2013: The Crusaders captured their only win of the season on Homecoming last year, defeating Campbell 49-42 in overtime. Valpo ended the season 1-10 and 1-7 in PFL play, but returns plenty of experience for 2014 in addition to a brand new coaching staff.
Scouting Saint Joseph’s: The Pumas enter Saturday night’s game in search of their third straight win in both a season opener and their road opener. Saint Joseph’s was picked to finish third in the Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) coaches’ poll. The Pumas finished the 2013 campaign with an 8-3 record. Their rush defense was amongst the top 10 in NCAA Division II having yielded just 85.6 yards per game on the ground. Returning from that high-caliber defense is a pair of can’t miss linebackers in Gary Yeoman and Joel Wimbley. Both netted First-team All-GLVC honors after amassing a combined 35 tackles for a loss and 15.5 sacks in ‘13. In last year’s tilt versus Valpo, Wimbley paced the Pumas with 10 tackles (one for a loss) and a sack; however, only Siena Heights put up more points on the St. Joe’s defense (35) than the Crusaders did last year in Rensselaer.
The Saint Joseph’s offense averaged over 28 points per game a season ago. The two-headed monster of Braxton Shelton and Kobi Cook at running back netted the Pumas nearly 1,900 yards on the ground. QB Bil VandeMerkt and WR Julian Walker torched the Crusaders last September, as the passer-to-receiver combination accounted for three of SJC’s five touchdowns. Fortunately for Valpo, both graduated; however, quarterback Tate Borlik returns with considerable experience and 646 passing yards in 2013. Receiver Alphonso Hines also is back for the Pumas. He accumulated 149 receiving yards and a TD in St. Joe’s 34-31 win last year. Gavin Voss, the former Valpo High kicker who booted the 29-yard game-winner for SJC last year, led the GLVC with a 73.3% field goal percentage in ‘13. Redshirt sophomore Marcin Gawlak will handle the punting duties for the Pumas. His 38.5 yards per punt average last season ranked second in the conference. Only 19 teams in all of Division II committed more penalties per game than the Pumas. St. Joe’s accrued 844 penalty yards on 99 infractions.
Head Coach Cory Sanders: Sanders is in his third season at the helm of the Puma football program. Following his graduation from Saint Joseph’s College, Sanders served as defensive backs coach at North Central College during the 2007 season. He then worked in the same capacity at Elmhurst College for the 2008 and 2009 seasons before returning to Saint Joseph’s as defensive coordinator in 2010. Sanders was then named the 19th head football coach the following year. He enters Saturday night’s game with a 16-16 overall coaching record in three seasons. As a player, Sanders was a three-time captain for the Pumas. He was named All-Conference all four seasons and ranks 5th all-time in SJC history with 30.5 tackles for a loss.
Alexander the Great: Last year’s Week 2 contest versus St. Joe’s served as a springboard for linebacker Alex Green’s monster season. Beginning with the Sept. 7th game at Alumni Stadium, Green racked up 88 tackles over the team’s next seven tilts.
Valpo in Home Openers: The Crusaders are 48-43-2 (.527) all-time in home openers. The Brown and Gold are looking for their first win in a home opener since Sept. 13, 2008 when they defeated Concordia (Wis.) 34-10.
Oh Captain, My Captain: Valpo has four captains for the 2014 season. Redshirt junior running back Jake Hutson and senior center Nate Koeneman will represent the offense, while junior defensive end John Guilford and junior linebacker Alex Green will represent the Crusader defense.