Valparaiso (0-2, 0-0 PFL)
at William Jewell (1-1, 0-0 GLVC)
Game #3: Saturday, Sept. 20, 1 p.m. CDT
Greene Stadium (7,000 - SprinTurf) - Liberty, Mo.
This Week in Crusader Football: The Crusaders head west once again as they travel to Liberty, Missouri to face the William Jewell Cardinals. A victory by the Brown and Gold on Saturday would represent their first over a non-conference opponent since Sept. 12th, 2009. Valpo has had two weeks to prepare for the Cardinals, who are coming off a 46-0 shutout at the hands of Colorado School of Mines last Saturday in Golden, Colorado. Predicted to finish ninth in the Great Lakes Valley Conference preseason poll, William Jewell defeated Southwest Baptist University 29-26 in its home opener back on Sept. 4th.
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 Brad Collignon adding the color commentary this week. Video will be available through JewellCardinals.com. Live stats will also be available through www.valpoathletics.com.
Head Coach Dave Cecchini: Cecchini is 0-2 in his first year at Valparaiso. 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: Last year marked the first ever meeting between Valpo and William Jewell on the gridiron. The Cardinals won a high-scoring affair over the Crusaders 36-34 on Sept. 14th at Brown Field. WJC, who led by as many as 20 points in the 4th quarter, staved off a late Crusader comeback attempt thanks to a 42-yard field goal with three minutes to play to make it a two-possession game. Eric Hoffman set the single-game school record for both passing yards (495) and completions (36) in a tilt that saw 914 total yards of offense. Fred Gladney and Tanner Kuramata combined for 15 catches, 311 receiving yards, and two TDs.
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 William Jewell: The Cardinals welcome Valparaiso to town as the Crusaders aim for their first win in the state of Missouri since 1969. WJC’s win over Southwest Baptist University in Week 1 snapped its nine-game losing streak at Greene Stadium. William Jewell’s offense is powered by junior running back Thomas Cook. A highly-elusive, athletic back, Cook burned the Brown and Gold in last season’s game at Brown Field as he recorded three touchdowns in addition to 175 rushing yards on 22 carries. Redshirt senior DJ Balazs is listed atop the WJC two-deep at quarterback. He had just one pass attempt versus Valpo last year - and it was picked off by Alex Grask. The Cardinals have rotated in three QBs in their first two games, so if Balazs falters early, don’t be surprised to see Colby Bowles or Nick West receive some snaps under center.
While the William Jewell defense has yet to assemble a signature game, it does boast several impressive numbers. In just two games, the Cardinal D has accumulated 17 tackles for a loss, eight sacks, and forced six fumbles - four of which were recovered. Jimmy DeStefano and Marquis Moye are on their way to strong campaigns. DeStefano has already tallied 26 tackles (three for a loss), a pair of sacks, an interception, and a fumble recovery. He led the WJC defense with 12 tackles, including two for a loss, last season at Valpo. Moye, a sophomore, has registered three sacks for a total of 28 yards thus far.
On special teams, Brandon Womack is 2-for-3 on extra points and converted his only FG attempt - a 27-yarder - in the second quarter of the Southwest Baptist contest. Junior Zane Kitchell has managed the punting duties for William Jewell. Kitchell averages 37.6 yards per boot and has pinned opponents inside their own 20-yard line three times in 14 punts. Cook pulls double duty on kickoff and punt returns. His 90-yard, fourth quarter TD return in Week 1 came right after Southwest Baptist had taken a 26-22 lead over the Cardinals.
Head Coach Jerod Kruse: Kruse is in his sixth season at the helm of the Cardinal football program. The Kansas native enters Saturday’s tilt with a 21-45 career coaching record. He oversaw William Jewell’s transition from NAIA to NCAA Division II football. Prior to being named head coach of the Cardinals in 2010, Kruse served as secondary coordinator at Emporia State University - his alma mater - for five seasons. Following his time at ESU, he worked as defensive secondary coordinator at Baker University during the 2009 season. While a player at Emporia State University, Kruse earned Special Teams Player of the Year and Most Inspirational Player accolades in his junior and senior years, respectively.
Tanner & Lehman, LLC: Wide receiver Tanner Kuramata leads NCAA Division I FCS in receptions per game with 10.5 and is 8th in receiving yards per game (112). Meanwhile, senior quarterback Ben Lehman is in the top 50 in completions per game (21), completion percentage (56.8%), and passing yards/game (192.5).
Through Two Games: Valpo QBs have been sacked just once...the Crusaders have yet to record a touchdown in the first half...opponents have not been awarded a first down via a Valpo penalty...opposing quarterbacks have not thrown an interception...the Crusaders have been successful six times on 4th down, two fewer than their entire season total in 2013...Valpo has allowed exactly 200 fewer passing yards than at this point last season...the Brown and Gold offense has averaged 79 plays per game...the Crusaders have won the time of possession battle in both contests...the Valpo defense has allowed fewer points in the second half (35) than it did in the 4th quarter last season (36) after Week 2.