Marist (0-5, 0-2 PFL)
at Valparaiso (1-3, 0-1 PFL)
Game #5: Saturday, Oct. 4, 12 p.m. CDT
Brown Field (5,000 - ProGrass) - Valparaiso, Ind.
This Week in Crusader Football: The Crusaders open a three-game homestand Saturday afternoon as the Marist Red Foxes visit Valparaiso in a noon kickoff. The Brown and Gold are looking for their first ever win over the Red Foxes, a streak that began in 2009. Marist has graduated a handful of playmakers from a 2013 squad that finished 7-1 in Pioneer Football League play, including current Miami Dolphins defensive end Terrence Fede. While the Red Foxes are in search of their first win of the 2014 campaign, the Crusaders would also like to give head coach Dave Cecchini his first win on Brown Field as head coach.
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. Links to the audio and live stats will also be available through www.valpoathletics.com. No video will be featured this week.
Head Coach Dave Cecchini: Cecchini is 1-3 in his first year at Valparaiso. His first head coaching win came on Sept. 20th, 2014 when the Crusaders defeated William Jewell 39-30. 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: Valparaiso has yet to defeat Marist in five attempts. All five of the Red Foxes’ wins have been lopsided affairs, with the last two by 37 points each. The Marist defense has been dominant throughout the series as it has managed to limit the Crusaders to seven points or fewer in each contest. Furthermore, the Red Fox defense has pitched two shutouts against Valpo (2009, 2013).
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 Marist: Last year, Marist finished 8-3, highlighted by a 7-1 PFL record. It represented a welcome rebound from a 2012 season that saw a 4-7 mark. This season appears to be another valley in an up-and-down past few years for the Jim Parady-led Red Foxes. Marist’s offense managed just one offensive touchdown in its first four contests. In fact, the Red Fox defense has found the end zone as many times as their counterparts (twice). After stumbling out of the gates to open 2014, Marist appeared to get back on track last week versus San Diego in its PFL opener. The Toreros didn’t see a lead until there was five seconds to play. USD won 20-16 in Poughkeepsie thanks to a 36-yard touchdown pass on the second-to-last snap of the game.
Parady has named Anthony Francis as the starting quarterback after sending Ed Achziger under center the first four weeks. Francis, who will be making just his second career start Saturday, has plenty of weapons at his disposal. Senior Matt Tralli and redshirt senior Armani Martin have combined to snag 43 passes for 517 yards. Tralli, whose brother Joe is also a receiver, led Marist in receptions last year versus the Crusaders (5). Atiq Lucas is back for his final season, and the running back has already racked up 89 carries. Though Lucas has yet to record a rushing touchdown in 2014, he did so eleven times a season ago.
Nearly all of Marist’s eye-catching numbers come on the defensive side of the pigskin. Senior Zach Adler’s four interceptions through five games is twice as many as any Crusader defender in all of 2013. (Coincidentally, it also matches his 2013 total - which led the team.) Adler also paces the Marist defense in tackles with 46. Fifteen different players have registered a tackle for a loss and the defense’s 10 takeaways are the 17th-most in Division I FCS. Despite a tough slate of opponents early on, Marist hasn’t surrendered more than 28 points in a game.
Head Coach Jim Parady: Parady is in his 23rd season at the helm of the Red Foxes’ football program. He carries an overall record of 115-118-1 into Saturday’s tilt. Parady has enjoyed eleven winning seasons since taking over at Marist. The Nashua, New Hampshire native has won three Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) championships and also owned a share of the Pioneer Football League title last season. The Red Foxes made the leap from Division III to I-AA while on Parady’s watch. He began his coaching career at Colby College in 1984 before moving on to Hamilton College the following year. Parady later served on Dick MacPherson’s staff at Syracuse during the 1986 and 1987 seasons, and was a part of an 11-0-1 Orangemen team that faced Auburn in the 1988 Sugar Bowl.
A Local Look at the Leaderboard: The Crusaders are ninth in Division I FCS in fewest penalties per game (4.5). They’re also fourth in the nation in sacks allowed per game (0.5). Opposing teams are successful just 31% of the time on third down - a rate that puts Valpo’s defense at #20. Junior Melvin Graham III is on the outskirts of the Top 10 in passes defended. The safety averages 1.5 per game, good for 13th in the country. Tanner Kuramata is currently 6th in receiving yards per game (111.3) and 4th in receptions per game (8). The senior’s 445 total receiving yards are 11th in the nation.
Quick Hits: Both Valpo and Marist have lost just one fumble each...Marist is 6th in the country in passes intercepted (7)...Crusader quarterbacks have been sacked just twice...Opponents are a perfect 5-for-5 on field goals against the Brown and Gold...both teams have scored just seven points in the 2nd quarter of games so far...the Red Foxes have been held out of the end zone in the 3rd quarter of each of its first five games.