Valparaiso (3-7, 1-5 PFL)
at San Diego (8-1, 6-1 PFL)
Game #11: Saturday, Nov. 15, 3 p.m. CDT
Torero Stadium (6,000 - Berma Sports Turf) - San Diego, Calif.
This Week in Crusader Football: Valparaiso invades Southern California for its penultimate game of the 2014 campaign. The 8-1 Toreros host the Crusaders with plenty of incentive. With a 6-1 record in Pioneer Football League play, San Diego can clinch a share of the league title with a victory. Furthermore, if Campbell can upset Jacksonville on Saturday afternoon, and San Diego wins, the Toreros will earn the PFL’s automatic bid into the Division I Football Championship. On the flipside, a Crusader triumph would give the Brown and Gold two wins in PFL play for the first time in six seasons. Saturday represents the final road game of the year for Valpo.
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. Dave Huseman will handle all the play-by-play, with Tyler Stevenson adding the color commentary this week. Links to the audio, video, and live stats will also be available through www.valpoathletics.com.
Head Coach Dave Cecchini: Cecchini is 3-7 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: San Diego leads the all-time series over the Crusaders, 16-5, with the Toreros having won ten consecutive tilts over the Brown and Gold. The Crusaders’ last win over San Diego came on Oct. 18th, 2003 when they won a 41-34 cliffhanger at Brown Field. In the history of the series, Valparaiso is 2-8 versus the Toreros away from home.
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 San Diego: A perennial powerhouse in the Pioneer Football League, this Torero squad is just the latest edition of San Diego football teams to reside at or near the top of the league standings. USD has registered just one losing season in PFL play since 2001 (3-5 in 2009). 2014 is shaping up to be the fourth consecutive season that the Toreros score more than 320 points. (Then-senior QB Mason Mills led San Diego to a 430-point offensive output a year ago.) Though current quarterback Keith Williams’ numbers aren’t as gaudy - 1,677 yards, 17 TDs, 55.9% completion percentage - as Mills were in 2013, Jonah Hodges has picked up the slack on the ground. Hodges, a redshirt sophomore, enters Saturday’s tilt needing just 30 rushing yards to reach 1,000 on the season. He’s averaging 107.8 yards/game through nine contests. Hodges also doubles as kick returner for San Diego. Brandon White (46 rec., 713 yards, 7 TDs) and Reggie Bell (31 rec., 618 yards, 7 TDs) have been Williams’ go-to receivers all season, as the two combine for over 72% of receiving yards. USD’s red zone offense is ranked sixth in FCS football. The Toreros have scored 31 times (23 touchdowns) in 33 trips inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.
San Diego’s defense has allowed 23.6 points per game, fourth-fewest in the PFL this season. True freshman Jonathan Petersen has made a name for himself in his rookie campaign. The defensive end is the owner of 7.5 tackles for a loss, five sacks, and a team-high three forced fumbles. Redshirt senior - and captain - Una Hamala has amassed 70 tackles, the eighth-most in the PFL. The linebacker racked up eight tackles against the Crusaders last November at Brown Field. Fellow linebacker Nic Henson has chipped in 67 stops - five for a loss. Cornerback Jamal Agnew leads the Torero secondary. Agnew has picked off four passes, defended 19, and broken up 15 attempts through the air. Strong safety Joe LaBarbera has two fumble recoveries to go with 51 tackles.
Redshirt junior David Last is a perfect 9-for-9 on field goals this season. The majority of Last’s kicks have been chip shots (six from 24 yards or shorter), but he has shown the ability to split the uprights from 50 yards, as he did at Drake on November 1st. Sophomore Ryan Belden covers the punting duties for the Toreros. Belden gets 37 yards per punt on average. Nine of his 57 punts have landed inside the 20, while two have been blocked.
Head Coach Dale Lindsey: Lindsey, who led the Toreros to an 8-3 overall record in 2013, is in his second season as head coach at San Diego. Lindsey is amongst a most impressive pedigree of USD head coaches that include Jim Harbaugh (San Francisco 49ers head coach) and Ron Caragher (San Jose State head coach). The 2008 Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame inductee returned to San Diego in 2012 as defensive coordinator following a three-season stint as assistant head coach at New Mexico State University. Prior to serving in the college ranks, Lindsey spent time as an assistant coach with numerous NFL teams including the San Diego Chargers, Washington Redskins, Chicago Bears, New England Patriots, and Green Bay Packers. During his playing days, Lindsey won a Tangerine Bowl Championship as a linebacker and fullback with Western Kentucky in 1963 before enjoying nine seasons with the Cleveland Browns (1965-73).
Crusader Crumbs: The Crusader defense has allowed 156 fewer points through ten games this season compared to 2013...Valpo’s average of 4.4 penalties per game is the fourth-fewest in the FCS...the Brown and Gold’s offensive line has allowed just 0.50 sacks per game. Only Citadel (0.40/game) has yielded fewer...no team in FCS has converted more fourth downs than Valparaiso (19).