San Diego (1-1, 0-0 Pioneer)
at Valparaiso (0-2, 0-0 Pioneer)
Game #3: Saturday, Sept. 26, 12:30 p.m. CT
Brown Field (5,000 - ProGrass) - Valparaiso, Ind.
This Week in Crusader Football: The Crusaders shoot for their third straight homecoming win this Saturday as San Diego visits Brown Field in the opening weekend of Pioneer Football League play. The defending champs are coming off their bye week while Valpo routed College of Faith (Ark.), 86-0, in an exhibition affair last Saturday. This week’s contest marks the end of Valpo’s three-game homestand, its longest of the season.
On the Air: ESPN3 will carry live coverage of Saturday’s game. Todd Ickow is in the booth calling the action on the Valpo Sports Radio Network. For the 10th straight season, WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) is home to all 11 Crusader football games in 2015. Fans can also tune in through valpoathletics.com. Ickow will handle all the play-by-play with Dave Huseman serving as color commentator. Links to the audio, video, and live stats are posted at www.valpoathletics.com.
Head Coach Dave Cecchini: Cecchini was 4-8 in 2014, his first year at Valparaiso. His first head coaching win came on Sept. 20th, 2014 when the Crusaders defeated William Jewell 39-30. Cecchini led the Brown and Gold to their first four-win season since 2007 and their first two-PFL win campaign since 2008. Cecchini’s fresh voice and unparalleled attention to detail on both sides of the ball helped last year’s squad to a 156-point improvement on defense over its predecessors in 2013. Cecchini made a name for himself as offensive coordinator at Harvard in 2003 when 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.
All-Time Series: San Diego leads the all-time series, 17-5, over the Brown and Gold. The Toreros have won 11 straight contests over the Crusaders. Valpo’s last win over San Diego came on Oct. 18th, 2003 in a 41-34 shootout at Brown Field. The Crusaders are 3-8 all-time at home versus USD. The two teams have faced each other every year since 1993.
Wrapping Up 2014: The Crusaders snapped a nine-game losing streak dating back to 2013 when they handed William Jewell a 39-30 defeat on Sep. 20th in Liberty, Mo. The victory was Valpo’s first away from Brown Field since Nov. 3rd, 2012 when they downed Campbell, 41-21. Valpo went on to finish Dave Cecchini’s inaugural season with a 4-8 record.
Scouting San Diego: Winners of three of the last four Pioneer Football League titles, San Diego has established a reputation of continued success and excellence. The Toreros have enjoyed a 52-14 (.788) record in league play over the last decade. While USD enters Saturday with a 1-1 record, it would be derelict to ignore that the lone defeat came at the hands of crosstown rival and Mountain West member San Diego State (FBS).
Redshirt freshman Anthony Lawrence has inherited the role of starting quarterback following the graduation of Keith Williams. He passed his first true test with flying colors Sept. 12th against Western New Mexico. Lawrence threw for four scores and 254 yards in the Toreros’ decisive 45-21 win over the Mustangs. Head coach Dale Lindsey was dealt a gut punch in Week 1 when 2014 All-PFL First Team running back Jonah Hodges sustained a broken collarbone. Juniors Blake Martin and Jereke Armstrong have been called upon to carry the baton in Hodges’ absence. The two have amassed 208 yards on 39 rushes (5.3 yards per carry) thus far. With Brandon White and Reggie Bell both gone, tight end Ross Dwelley has been called upon to step up. He leads all USD receivers with 15 catches for 173 yards. Brian Riley (7 rec., 126 yds., 2 TD) is an excellent complementary target for Lawrence.
Junior cornerback Jamal Agnew received a preseason All-PFL nod and is as active as they come in the secondary. The San Diego native owned the FCS watermark in passes defended (2.1 per game) last year and is on a torrid pace again in 2015 (2.5 PD/game). Agnew and Devyn Bryant both possess two interceptions already. Sophomore Jonathan Petersen has been a nuisance at defensive end for the Toreros. Three of his ten tackles have come behind the line of scrimmage. He’s also tallied two QB hits and forced a fumble.
One of the more intriguing matchups to follow Saturday will come at special teams. Frank Catrine’s 16.3 yards per punt return figure is 10th in the country while San Diego’s punt return defense is third in the nation (-0.5 yards per return).
Head Coach Dale Lindsey: Lindsey, who led the Toreros to an 9-3 overall record in 2014 and a PFL title, is in his third season as head coach at San Diego. Lindsey is amongst a most impressive pedigree of USD head coaches that include Jim Harbaugh (University of Michigan 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 logging nine seasons with the Cleveland Browns (1965-73).
Crusader Crumbs: Last season, Valpo ranked last in the PFL and 8th-to-last in all of FCS in takeaways (12 in 12 games); through two games, the Brown and Gold have recorded five takeaways, good for 2nd in PFL and 16th in FCS...conversely, the Crusaders led the nation in sacks allowed in 2014 (5), but have already surrendered eight through the first two tilts...the top two leaders in forced fumbles per game in all of FCS reside in the PFL (John Hugunin, Drake, 1.33; J.J. Nunes, Valpo, 1.00)...the Crusaders have been one of the least-flagged teams since Cecchini took over in 2014; they led the Pioneer a year ago (4.67 penalties/game) and are currently 2nd in the league with just 5.00 transgressions per game...Valparaiso is 5-2-1 all-time on Sept. 26th, 4-1-1 at home...with 8.5 tackles per game, senior linebacker Alex Green is ranked 7th in the PFL.