Morehead State (5-4, 4-2 Pioneer)
at Valparaiso (1-7, 1-5 Pioneer)
Game #9: Saturday, Nov. 14, 1 p.m. CT
Brown Field (5,000 - FieldTurf) - Valparaiso, Ind.
This Week in Crusader Football: Thirteen seniors will emerge from the Brown Field tunnel for the final time this Saturday when the Crusaders welcome Morehead State to town for the 2015 home finale. Senior linebacker Alex Green needs just four stops for his third consecutive 100-tackle season as the Brown and Gold look to avenge last season’s 48-47 heartbreaking loss to the Eagles in Morehead.
On the Air: Todd Ickow will be 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. Ickow will handle all the play-by-play with Dave Huseman providing color commentary. There will be no video available for Saturday’s game. Links to the audio 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: Morehead State leads the all-time series 17-3 over Valparaiso, including eight consecutive victories over the Brown and Gold. The Crusaders’ last win over the Eagles came on Sept. 16th, 2006 when they won a 42-35 tilt at Jayne Stadium. Morehead State stole a 48-47 shootout from Valpo last October 25th thanks to a four-yard touchdown run from Brandon Bornhauser with 17 seconds left in the game.
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 Morehead State: Perhaps the most improved PFL team over last season, the Eagles were eight minutes away from sharing a spot atop the standings last Saturday. Morehead State led Dayton 15-14 midway through the fourth quarter at Jayne Stadium until Alex Jeske and Jack Adams spearheaded the game-winning drive in a 20-15 Flyer victory that preserved UD’s quest for a perfect season.
Quarterback Austin Gahafer - and the Morehead State offense - is one of the best in the PFL. Only Jacksonville racks up more yards of total offense (449.3 YPG) in the league than the Eagles (416.6 YPG). Gahafer has started all but one game since arriving in Morehead in 2013 and has piled up 7,589 passing yards, 756 completions, and 55 touchdown passes in just 32 tilts. (To compare, his completions and passing yards would currently sit atop Valpo’s all-time career leaderboard.) Gahafer has cut down on his interceptions: he entered 2015 having averaged an interception every 35 pass attempts, but has thrown just nine picks in 399 attempts this season (one per 44.3 attempts). If you take away his season opener at FCS-scholarship James Madison, the Louisville native has averaged 306.6 passing yards per contest.
The Crusader secondary will have its hands full Saturday. Six MSU wideouts have recorded 100 receiving yards or more thus far. Redshirt senior Justin Cornwall has been the recipient of 11 TD passes, a figure that ranks 4th in the nation and paces all PFL receivers. Furthermore, Jake Raymond and Tanner Napier have hauled in over 550 yards apiece to go with seven combined TDs. Cornwall, Raymond, and Napier each caught a touchdown pass from Gahafer in last October’s 48-47 shootout. The two-running back system employed by head coach Rob Tenyer has complemented the offense’s supersonic passing attack very well. Rob Harden and Brent Holman are both averaging just under five yards per carry. Gahafer has also used his feet three times to account for a score.
Morehead State’s defense has made noticeable strides from a year ago. The Eagles surrendered over 40 points within PFL play in 2014. This season, they’ve limited opponents to nearly half that (22.2 PPG). MSU pitched back-to-back shutouts against Kentucky Christian and Davidson this past September. While they’re still yielding an average of 414.2 yards per game, the Eagles have parlayed 14 interceptions and a top-40 ranking defense on third down to curb opposing offenses from piling up points. Tenyer’s defense has accumulated 24 sacks while his offensive line has conceded just nine. Cornerback Justin Grier owns seven of MSU’s 14 interceptions. Portland State’s Patrick Onwuasor is the only player in the country with more picks than Grier (eight).
Head Coach Rob Tenyer: Tenyer is in his third season leading the Morehead State football program. The Michigan native took over the reins after 12 seasons as an assistant in Morehead. An Eagle through and through, Tenyer coached running backs in all 12 of those years, in addition to stints as receivers coach, strength and conditioning coordinator, and equipment coordinator throughout. He also served as offensive coordinator during the 2011 and 2012 seasons after four years as recruiting coordinator. During his playing days, Tenyer was a four-year letterwinner at Olivet (Mich.) College where he served as team captain his senior season.
Crusader Crumbs: With his 14-stop performance last week at Butler, linebacker Alex Green surpassed Stetson’s Donald Payne and is now up to 4th in the nation in tackles per game (12.0)...a victory Saturday would give the Crusaders a win in their home finale for the third time in the past five seasons...Valpo has a 90% success rate in the red zone in PFL play...Jake Hutson reached 1,500 career rushing yards last Saturday at Butler.